MONTREAL, QC — As the horn sounded on May 24, 2010 at the Wells Fargo Center to officially eliminate the Canadiens from a berth to the Stanley Cup Final Series, Jaroslav Halak unknowingly skated his last stride in a Montreal Canadiens sweater. Five hundred and ninety six days later, Jaroslav Halak will make his long awaited return to the Bell Centre ice sporting a St.Louis Blues sweater.
It will undoubtedly be a special moment for Halak as he returns to the arena where fans clamoured the loudest for him during his career changing performance during the 2009-2010 playoffs ousting the first seeded Washington Capitals and fourth seeded Pittsburgh Penguins almost single-handedly.
Since leaving Montreal, Halak has posted a 36-28-12 record over the last two seasons with the Blues. The 5’11” goaltender has yet to play 60 games in his career, which is an essential landmark for number one goalies in the league to reach. For much of the 2011-2012 season, Halak has been noticeably outplayed by backup revelation Brian Elliott who holds a 15-5-0 record. Through 21 games, Elliott has a save percentage of .940 and a goals against average of 1.62 which are both good enough for second best in the NHL amongst goaltenders. However, over the last nine games Halak has firmly grabbed the reigns and is unbeaten in regulation since November 29, 2011 with a 6-0-3 record.
When news broke of the trade on June 17, 2010, some Habs fans where cockeyed, frantically screaming the blues and calling it one of the biggest mistakes the Canadiens organization had made since trading Patrick Roy. While other, more level-headed fans and media where able to recognize that the Canadiens dealt the right guy for reasons including cost, size, positional technique and ability to handle a true number one goaltender workload. Ask anyone today if Pierre Gauthier made the right choice in keeping Carey Price over Jarolav Halak and you will get a resounding ‘yes.’
And that question is based on the goaltender comparison alone.
Add Lars Eller to the fold and you may be able to definitively conclude that the Canadiens won the trade too.
Eller of course was the centrepiece the Canadiens received in return for Jarolav Halak. A blue chip prospect selected 13th overall in the 2007 NHL entry draft with enough, speed, size and talent to be a reliable two-way forward.
Eller of course had a breakout night on January 4, 2012 scoring four goals against the Winnipeg Jets including a highlight reel penalty shot and becoming the first Montreal Canadien to score four goals on Bell Centre ice. In 115 games in a Canadiens uniform, Eller has scored 15 goals and picked up 19 assists. The proof in the pudding that Eller has already drastically improved since his first NHL season with the Canadiens, the centre has already reached his 17 point total of last year through 38 games this season.
His defensive skills have also been relied upon recently with head coach Randy Cunneyworth giving Eller and his line the tall task of shutting down some of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL in Stamkos, St.Louis and Lecavalier in the third period of a one goal hockey game.
Eller’s speed, stick-handling, playmaking abilities and creativity have already proven to be enough to get the Bell Centre crowd to their feet. Just the way Halak was once able to get the crowd on their feet too.
The two will have to share the ice on one night… perhaps the cheers too.
The Canadiens face the Blues in their only meeting of the season on Tuesday January 10, 2012.
Photo: AFP/Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
About the Author (Author Profile)Kristina is just like all of you, a die-hard Habs fan with an opinion on just about everything. Informed on just about every sporting event possible, Kristina is always up for a friendly discussion. You may also hear her expressing her opinion on TSN Radio 990 as she joins Simon Tsalikis and Chris Nilan on the Habs This Week Show on Saturday afternoons. She hopes you enjoy her insight and don't be afraid to hit her up on Twitter!
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