Jaroslav Halak was barely challenged by the Habs
MONTREAL — He was once the toast of this town. A goaltender who steals playoff games for the Canadiens wins hearts across La Belle Province, where the game is religion, especially in this city, the Hockey Holy See.
When he’s a visitor wearing Black and Gold, all good deeds are forgotten. He might as well be wearing horns on his head.
The devil they knew barely had to work Monday. Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves in Boston’s 4-0 win, recording his third shutout of the season and 45th of his career. He was barely challenged by the Habs in his first game as a Bruin in the Bell Centre, a building he once owned.
“It’s always nice to get a shutout,” he said, before discussing the effort in front of him. “From the drop of the puck, we played pretty good. For 60 minutes, we didn’t give them much.”
Halak, greeted by a mixture of cheers and catcalls during introductions, posted his second shutout of the club that drafted him in the ninth round (271st overall) in 2003, the puckstopping savior of their run to the 2010 Eastern Conference final. Monday night, he denied Carey Price a chance at his 300th career win.
Halak faced five shots through the first 25 minutes, able to take a trip down memory lane if he so chose. He did not.
“If you find yourself looking to the stands, I don’t think that’s a good thing,” he said. “I know I wasn’t busy the first half of the game.”
Halak’s heroics in the 2010 playoffs, when he dragged the Canadiens on their best run in nearly two decades, are part of the scriptures. Meaning, they are ancient history, just like the trade that June, when then-general manager Pierre Gauthier angered fans by shipping Halak, the underdog savior, to St. Louis. Even future Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, rising to prominence in the Canadian Liberal party, lamented the deal on Twitter.
“WHAT!?!?” he wrote. “Halak for two hockey sticks and a bag of magic beans . . . ”
More than eight years later, the sticks and beans (Lars Eller and Ian Schultz) are no longer here, but Carey Price has proven Montreal’s decision-makers prescient. He stood 15 away from catching Jacques Plante for No. 1 on Montreal’s all-time wins list.
But the 33-year-old Halak, regaining his footing after a so-so run (1-3, .887 save percentage in his previous four starts), picked up his first victory here since November 2013, when he was with the Blues. His other shutout of the Habs in Montreal: a 19-save effort in his first game here after the trade, in January 2012.
“I would assume he’d feel pretty good about it,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Halak, who spent the first four years of his career here (2007-10) before stints with the Blues, Capitals, and Islanders.
He signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal with Boston on July 1.
“First, just living in the moment, to get another win,” Cassidy said. “We made his life a lot easier than maybe the last two starts he’s had.”
Brilliant in October and November, Halak slid from first to fifth in save percentage (.926) entering Monday. He finished the game back in first (.929), improving his record to 10-5-2 and GAA to 2.27. He is second in the league in shutouts to Vegas’s Marc-Andre Fleury (five).
A first for Cave
Rookie Colby Cave scored his first NHL goal in his 16th game, and first time playing in Montreal.
“Feels real good, especially in a winning effort,” said Cave, who added a secondary assist on Joakim Nordstrom’s first-period goal. “I thought we played an unreal game as a team tonight. We rolled four lines, all three D pairs were playing good, and Jaro was a brick wall back there. It’s a recipe for success.”
The impending return of Patrice Bergeron could push Cave out of the lineup, but the 23-year-old center, with a 1-3—4 line in 13 games, is doing what he can.
“Terrific kid, person,” said Cassidy, who coached him two years in Providence. “Usually once a game he’s getting a good look. This one he was able to get in the back of the net. Having him out there 4 on 4 the last minute shows the trust level you have in a player like Colby, and he’s earned that.”
Bergeron and Zdeno Chara skated in Brighton on Monday, Cassidy told the Globe, and both are expected to return to practice Wednesday, following the club’s day off.
Assuming he is cleared for contact, Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) could play this weekend. Chara (left MCL) is slightly behind.
Kevan Miller (larynx) will not be cleared for contact until after the Christmas break, Cassidy said, but he continues to practice with the team at home.
Jake DeBrusk (concussion) is “feeling better,” but he has been off skates since reporting his condition Dec. 6 in Tampa. Cassidy did not anticipate he would skate Wednesday.
Urho Vaakanainen (concussion, flu) could practice Wednesday.
Defenseman Steven Kampfer, who took a deflected puck to the face late in Sunday’s game, wore a full face shield. Teammate Sean Kuraly (broken nose) did the same . . . The Canadiens on Saturday celebrated coach Claude Julien’s 600th win. Julien earned 419 of those in Boston . . . Charlie McAvoy finished with six hits, most of them rubbing out forwards along the boards . . . Chris Wagner, off his six-shot effort against Buffalo, was one of two Bruins (Kampfer the other) to fire blanks. But Wagner landed six hits of his own . . . The Bruins won 56 percent of drops, with David Krejci (11 of 19) taking 58 percent of his.