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Will Jaroslav Halak acquisition pay off for St. Louis Blues?
When you think of the St. Louis Blues' offseason you can't help but think of one name: Jaroslav Halak(notes). Without question the acquisition of the goaltender Halak was the most notable move in the less than thrilling offseason for the Blues. Besides acquiring Halak, the Blues acquired Dave Scratchard, Vladimir Sobotka(notes), Stefan Della Rovere(notes), Graham Mink(notes) and T.J. Hensick(notes). The Blues barely missed the playoffs last year, missing the 8th spot in the Western Conference by five points. Many Blues fans, including myself, attribute missing the playoffs to numerous late game collapses and a very poor home record under Andy Murray. St. Louis went 18-18-5 at home as opposed to 22-14-5 away from Scottrade, according to NHL.COM.
With Halak comes the confidence of succeeding in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Halak almost single-handedly carried the Montreal Canadians to the Eastern Conference finals in the 2009-2010 NHL season, posting a .923 save percentage. Many skeptics will point out that the Halak, who is Slovak, is inexperienced and had one lucky NHL season. The Blues, however, are very confident in his ability's as should the fans be. The Blues gave up potentially their top scoring prospect in Lars Eller(notes) and a defenseman named Ian Schultz(notes) for Jaroslav. Needless to say the Blues are banking on him to be successful. Halak is an improvement in several goaltender statistics including Goals Against Average, Save Percentage and Shootout Save Percentage.
The duo from last year (Chris Mason(notes) and Ty Conklin(notes)) were impressive but there was room for substantial improvement, fans and ownership both saw this as being an issue. Mason was originally offered a contract with the Blues and rejected it. And ended up signing a deal in Atlanta. The organization moved fast in searching for other options. There were a couple notable free agent keepers including Evgeni Nabokov(notes), Antti Niemi(notes) and Marty Turco(notes). Management however found their man in the playoff hero Halak, shocking the hockey community and sending the Canadian media into a frenzy. Conklin remains as the backup. Most Blues fans rejoiced in the news of a playoff experienced goaltender. Experts have the St. Louis penciled into a playoff spot, and I don't blame them. Look for Halak to be stellar this year.
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