Now officially recalled after being waived on New Year’s Eve, Jaroslav Halak needs to make the most of his second chance with the New York Islanders. Their playoff push hinges on his success in his return.
In a tumultuous season which included shutouts, blowouts and send downs for the veteran goaltender. Since stumbling out of the gate with the rest of his team in October, Halak has performed poorly overall in 16-17.
There are mitigating factors that have been surrounding Halak’s poor play (poor defense in front, three-goalie system, feud between agent Allan Walsh and Garth Snow) however the performance of Thomas Greiss proved that the circumstance wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
After a half season of confusion as to which goaltender had claimed the title of starter, Greiss had won out when Halak was sent to the AHL on New Year’s Eve. A new contract for Greiss ($3.5 million AAV) solidified management’s decision.
But in the wake of the poor performance set out by JF Berube, and the resurgence of Halak in the AHL, management turned to their former starter once more, and his success will be key to their playoff push in the coming weeks.
Halak will likely be in goal tonight against Pittsburgh, and how he performs will shape the Islanders fate. Greiss has never had to handle a full starter’s workload, and since management couldn’t trust Berube, he had to play even more than most starters.
Greiss has sustained a lot of mental, and some physical, fatigue. Despite him maintaining his overall excellent play, he has been pulled several times in the last 10 games and has had more off games than normal.
Halak’s return will allow Greiss to sit more games and possibly even complicate the question of starting goaltender once more.
How consistent he plays remains to be seen, but Jaro has every reason to come out in World Cup form. He is playing his first NHL game of 2017, and his first game back in three months after the person signed as the backup stole his job.
Expect to see a deep chip on his shoulder when the puck drops at the PPG Paints Arena.