Inside the Numbers: Jaroslav Halak
Team: St. Louis Blues
2011-12 Regular Season Stats: 46 GS, 26 W, 1.97 GAA, .926 Sv%
Quality Starts: 31 (67.4% of GS)
Terrible Starts: 5 (10.9% of QS)
Quality Starts Wasted: 10 (32.3% of GS)
Bail-outs: 6 (13.0% of GS)
The St. Louis Blues were the stingiest team in the NHL this season, and while Brian Elliott got a lot of attention at the end of the year for his single season Sv% record and breakout-of-the-year candidacy, Jaroslav Halak was certainly no slouch himself. Halak will start the Blues first playoff game on Thursday, so let’s go inside the numbers and look at his performance this year. Halak finished the year with a sparkling 1.97 GAA and .926 Sv%, which is definitely impressive, but Jaro posted an amazing .938 even-strength Sv%, second in the NHL only to…you guessed it…Brian Elliott. While Elliott’s amazing numbers came out of nowhere, Halak has a track record of turning away a high proportion of pucks.
Halak did not have such a great year in 2010-11, his first campaign with the Blues, but in 2009-10, he maintained a .930+ Ev Sv% with the Canadiens. They say once is a fluke, twice is a trend…and Halak certainly seems like the genuine article. While he and Elliott maintained a timeshare this season, Halak still posted a very impressive ratio of Quality Starts, hanging 31 QS of his 46 starts, good for 67.4%.
A look at Halak’s game log shows that three of his five Terrible Starts came in the first five starts of the season, and after October 18, he only had two more blow-up games. Halak certainly righted the ship and found his groove after that. If we throw out the month of October, Halak’s rate stats would be 1.74 and .935, so if he can avoid that cluster of grenade games next year, he could be poised for an even more impressive season.
NHL Playoff Implication: Halak will start between the pipes for the Blues while Elliott nurses his “unspecified upper-body injury,” and the big questions will be 1) when will Elliott return, 2) when he does return, how will Ken Hitchcock split the starts between the two, and 3) if Halak plays great while Elliott is out, how will that affect the split? Of course, Elliott could very well get the start in game 2, and they could continue to split the starts the same way they did in the regular season. However, one of the best known tropes of the NHL postseason is that of the “hot goalie,” so how will the timeshare between Elliott and Halak play out? Statistically, they have both been playing out of their minds, and it is reasonable to think that whomever starts in goal, the Blues will be extremely hard to score on. San Jose’s lineup is rather potent, so St. Louis will have their work cut out for them, but Defense Wins Championships, and the Blues have the best defense anyone has seen in a long time.