Jaroslav Halák (born May 13, 1985) is a Slovak professional ice hockey goaltender currently playing for the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League (NHL). Halák was the 271st overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
In the midst of a stellar season with the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, Halák was called up to the Canadiens on February 15, 2007, after an injury to Montreal’s starting goaltender, Cristobal Huet. At the time of his call-up, Halák had a 2.00 goals against average (GAA) with the Bulldogs, the lowest in the AHL. He played his first NHL game on February 18, 2007, stopping 31 shots in a 3–2 road win over theColumbus Blue Jackets. Halák earned his first career NHL shutout on March 20, 2007, making thirty saves to give the Montreal Canadiens a 1–0 victory over the rival Boston Bruins. Halák’s great play towards the end of the 2006–07 season helped keep Montreal in a fight for a playoff spot despite the injury to Huet.
Halák was assigned to the Bulldogs for the majority of the 2007–08 season. However, after the Canadiens traded Huet on February 26, 2008, Halák took over full-time as the Canadiens back-up goaltender. He started his first playoff game on April 30, 2008 against the Philadelphia Flyers (a 4–2 loss) after sub-par performances from newly appointed starter Carey Price, who once again took over in the following game.
Halák fulfilled back-up duties for the Canadiens into the 2009-10 season. However, Halák’s strong play coupled with inconsistent performances from Price led to an opportunity for Halák to step into a larger role. Ultimately, based on his strong play for the Habs and for Slovakia at the Vancouver Olympics, there was a strong internal push to designate Halák the starting goaltender for the Habs.
Halák went on to be named the Montreal Canadiens’ Molson Cup Player of the Year for the 2009-10 season and was designated the starter heading into their first-round playoff match-up against the President’s Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. In the sixth game of the series, Halák stopped 53 shots to set a club record for a playoff game (in regulation-time), leading the Canadiens to a 4-1 victory. Ultimately, the Canadiens overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win the series in seven games, marking one of the biggest upsets in NHL history. The win was attributed largely to Halák’s play as he turned aside 131 of Washington’s 134 shots in games 5 through 7, frustrating the league’s top scoring team from the regular season. The Canadiens moved on to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, and defeated them in seven games as well, marking a second consecutive major upset. Montreal won the decisive game 5-2, and Halák was named the first star. The Canadiens faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Final, and their surprising playoff-run came to an end with a 4-1 series loss.
St. Louis Blues
At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, both Halák and Carey Price became restricted free agents and a great goaltending debate emerged in Montreal over who would remain with the team, playoff-hero Halák, or the younger Price. After weeks of media speculation the Canadiens chose Price and on June 17 controversially traded Halák to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for two prospects, center Lars Eller and right-winger Ian Schultz (brother of Jeff Schultz). On July 6, 2010, Halák signed a four year $15 million dollar contract with the Blues. Prior to the 2010–11 season, Halák held an autograph-signing in Montreal as a farewell and goodwill gesture, to thank fans for their support as well as to raise funds for the Montreal Ste-Justine Children’s Hospital. Though 500 fans were expected, more than 5000 fans attended the event held at the Fairview Pointe-Claire mall, testifying to his popularity with Canadiens fans.
Halák played his first game as a Blue on October 9, 2010, earning a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in St. Louis. Halák would collect his first shutout with the Blues on October 23, 2010 at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins, stopping 31 shots in a 1-0 overtime victory. Halák would go on to be named one of the NHL’s Stars of the Week. Halak had a quick start in St. Louis going 8-1-1 and currently is sharing the number 1 role in St. Louis with Brian Elliott. In the 2011-2012 NHL season, Halak, along with Brian Elliott, was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest amount of goals (165 collectively) in the regular season.
Halák has represented Slovakia internationally on numerous occasions. He first played for his country at the IIHF World U20 Championship, starting every game for the team in both the 2004 and 2005tournaments, where the team finished 6th and 7th, respectively. Halák’s first senior international experience came in 2007 as he played in the 2007 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, starting 2 games and earning a 1-1 record. The Slovaks finished in 6th place. Halák again represented Slovakia at the 2009 tournament, where the team finished a disappointing 10th overall.
In February 2010, Halák was named the starting goaltender for the Slovak national team in the 2010 Winter Olympics. He stopped 36 of 37 shots in a preliminary round victory against a strong Russianteam, and went on to start every game for the Slovaks. Halák and his teammates finished a surprising 4th overall in the tournament after losing against Finland in the bronze medal match. This was the best finish ever for Slovakia at the Olympics, one spot better than their 5th place finish at the 2006 Olympics.
Halak plays in the hybrid style of play by being able to make saves standing up or in the butterfly stance. Halak made a number of saves standing up in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs against theWashington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.