I don't get why people are still surprised when Jaro Halak takes the Habs by the throat and hauls them into the playoffs. Three years ago he stepped up when Cristobal Huet went down with a groin injury and singlehandedly stopped the post-Christmas slide. He brought the team to within one point of the post-season, but Carbonneau decided to use a returning Huet in the vital last game and Huet blew it. Two years ago, Halak was dumped to the minors in favour of Carey Price. But last season he was at it again, stepping into the breach when Price faltered after the all-star break and stealing huge wins against San Jose and Vancouver, among others. Those wins broke a general team slump and allowed the Habs to sneak into the eighth playoff spot. This season Jacques Martin has recognized what Halak does and has given him the net. Halak is running with it, stopping ninety shots this week alone and stealing vital points in the standings. If the Habs make the post-season, it'll be because of his performances, which have been steady almost without exception.
The Canadiens didn't deserve to win that game last night. They looked slow and confused for much of the night. Dump-ins with one guy chasing, forwards slow getting back to their own end and lame-ass backhand flips to clear the zone...the kind that always get intercepted...happened with disheartening regularity. I'm increasingly blaming Martin's "system" for this because even without Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn, the team has more talent than it's showing. I didn't like Martin's shootout choices either. Plekanec NEVER scores in the shootout and a decent coach would know that.
The only things in their favour were the things that have saved their bacon all year. Special teams were strong, with a PP goal by Metropolit while the PK crushed five of six Bruins attempts. And of course, the goaltending was impeccable again. Fortunately, those things were enough to beat a Bruins team that looks more confused than the Habs did.
There was a little good news, aside from the two points though. The goals came from the bottom six and from the defence, which was a nice change of pace for a team that relies so heavily on the Plekanec and Gomez lines. Markov looked closer to the star we're used to seeing when he's on the ice. He hadn't been great lately, but was better last night. I think O'Byrne is good for him. And they, once again, clawed their way back from a deficit to pull off a win. They suck, but they don't quit.
All in all, the Canadiens were lucky the Bruins are in a lottery-pick swan dive. If they'd played that game against the Capitals or Sharks, they'd be completely annihilated, goalie or no goalie. Amazingly, though, they pulled off the two points and are alone in sixth place. This is a weird year with more questions than answers. The only thing we can be sure of is Jaroslav Halak.