The star goalie was pulled from a 6-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers after allowing four goals on 14 shots in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night.
That won’t shatter his confidence, or worry his teammates and coaches. After all, it’s nothing new.
Halak got yanked after giving up five goals in a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the second round. He was dominant the rest of the series, and the eighth-seeded Canadiens eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.
“It wasn’t one of his better games,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said Monday. “I think he’ll recognize that, and not just him. I think it goes with our hockey team. I think last night wasn’t a good performance, and the result was there to show it. I’ve got lots of confidence, and his teammates have a lot of confidence in Jaro that he’ll be able to bounce back.”
Halak entered this series with the best save percentage (.933) in the playoffs. He was the main reason the Canadiens stunned Presidents’ Trophy winners Washington and the reigning champion Penguins in the first two rounds to go deeper into the playoffs than they have since 1993, when they won the Stanley Cup a record 24th time.
Halak stopped 131 of the final 134 shots he faced against the Capitals in the opening round. After his early exit against the Penguins, Halak allowed just 12 goals in the last six games. Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) each had one in the series.
“Every series is a different series, so right now we are facing a different team than we faced in the first round and second round,” Halak said. “So every team plays different hockey, and we just need to make a little bit adjustment in our penalty killing and our system. I think if we do that we should be OK.”
Halak didn’t get much defensive support against the Flyers. Two of Philadelphia’s goals against him were on the power play and the Canadiens had a difficult time preventing the bigger, tougher Flyers from crowding the front of the net.
“It’s playoffs. They want to win the game as much as we want to,” Halak said. “We just need to do a better job, you know, boxing guys out, and we should be OK.”
Leighton, who sat out from March 16 until May 10 because of an ankle injury, will take a shutout streak of 105 minutes, 50 seconds into Game 2. Yet he still feels he has to prove himself every game, and there is no guarantee he’ll have a starting job in Philly next season.
“I guess that’s what kind of happens with goalies,” Leighton said. “If you look at Halak and the way things have gone in Montreal, I think he’s had a great season. You know, he’s had to prove himself over and over again. There are still questions about whether it’s him or (Carey) Price sometimes. I think he’s finally stood out and they’re finally saying he’s the guy. So I’m hoping to get to that point where I get to a team that says, ‘You know, you’re the guy.’ I had an opportunity here and I enjoyed it.”
The Flyers, who overcame a 3-0 series deficit against Boston, could get more help soon. Injured forwards Jeff Carter(notes) (foot) and Ian Laperriere(notes) (concussion) both skated on Monday. Laperriere was cleared for contact, and general manager Paul Holmgren said the gritty forward is closer to playing.
“Hockey players live to play hockey,” Holmgren said. “So I’m sure they’re both champing at the bit. They’re a big part of our hockey team.”