September 09, 2010
This tribute to bygone goalies is one of two masks Jaroslav Halak(notes) will wear with the St. Louis Blues this season (via Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch). It features the legendary Jacques Plante, along with Mike Liut and Grant Fuhr -- though not Curtis Joseph(notes) -- and In-Goal Magazine has additional looks at the mask.
Naturally, upon seeing the mask, this St. Louis Game Time post immediately came to mind: Halak Best Blues Goaltender In 15 Years. From Brad Lee:
While it's impossible to judge a trade the day after it's made and without knowing how much the restricted free agent Halak will make, we can talk about potential. There is a good chance that Halak will be the best goaltender for the St. Louis Blues in 15 years. That timeframe represents the end of the Curtis Joseph era in St. Louis and a decade and a half of turmoil with the goaltending position. It's easy to assume that he'll be better than Chris Mason(notes) and Manny Legace(notes) before him and Patrick Lalime(notes) before him …
Halak earned these expectations last postseason, looking practically unbeatable at times. And they’re certainly in place at the start of training camp, as one can see from this wonderfully hyperbolic article on the Blues’ Web site, whose thesis can be summed up like this:
So what can be expected from Halak with the Blues next season?
According to Chris Nichols of Sportsnet, GM Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch that he sees him playing about 55 games next season:
"[Coach] Davis [Payne] and (new Blues goaltending coach) Corey Hirsch will work with Jaro to decide how many starts is enough," Armstrong said. "We would think that the 55-range going into it is a good number. But if he's a workhorse and he doesn't wear out, he might get more. Or, if he feels that he needs rest .... I think (with backup Ty Conklin(notes)), we have one of the best goaltending combinations in the game."
Fifty-five games would be a career high for Halak, who started 43 games last season for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s the right move, and the trend in the NHL to share the goaltending load insulates the Blues from any criticism for not turning a $15 million goalie into a 65-70 start guy out of the gate.
Here's defenseman Erik Johnson(notes), speaking to the Post-Dispatch at Thursday's press event for Halak:
"We gave up some good players to get Jaro, but we have an established franchise goalie who's young and not even in the prime of his career yet. I think he's like (Armstrong) and JD have been saying, he has a track record of winning where's he been. He took an underdog team (Montreal) to the conference finals last year and we're excited to have him."
From the new gear to the established hype, Halak gives the Blues and their fans something to get excited about in September. Oh, and would someone tell CBS Sports that St. Louis draws slightly more than 5,000 fans during the regular season? We’re all for attendance snark, but honestly …