Comparing 2009-10 Chris Mason and 2010-11 Jaroslav Halak
Last season it was clear the Blues needed to make some upgrades after they failed to make the playoffs. One area that needed improvement was between the pipes. Chris Mason had done an admirable job, but it was apparent that the Blues needed a true, legitimate number one goaltender. The team and the fans thought they got exactly what they needed when the team dealt for Jaroslav Halak. Unfortunately, expectations have yet to be met.
Coming off his incredible run through the playoffs with Montreal, we all had pretty high expectations for Halak - likely too high in all fairness.
If you focus purely on the regular season numbers, what we are seeing from Halak is pretty normal based on his career averages. That's a pretty troubling statistic, but one the Blues had to be aware of prior to dealing for him. The Blues probably believed that with some adjustments, Halak could be the difference maker he was for the Canadiens in the playoffs on a regular basis.
Obviously, he hasn't been anything but average in his first season with the Blues. Considering all the flack Chris Mason received last season, it's time to put things in perspective. All stats are from Yahoo! Sports.
61 games, 30-22-8
46 games, 21-18-6
As you can see, to date, Halak's numbers have fallen below the numbers Chris Mason put up last year. There is some time left for Halak to improve on his GAA and save percentage, but as of the date of this article, he hasn't been the big game-changer everyone thought he would be. At this pace, Halak will have been just a different version of Chris Mason this season, which is definitely not what anyone has been paying him for.
Just some food for thought.
Overall, when comparing the total goaltending statistics from 2009-10 and this season the numbers have been extremely disappointing. Defense obviously plays a factor, but items like save percentage have a direct correlation to the poor displays in net.
2009-10 Combined Goaltending Stats
.916 save percentage
Chris Mason performed at the best of his ability and Ty Conklin was one of the best backup options in the league. The team failed to make the playoffs, but one can't be too disappointed in the performances of Mason/Conklin. Mason stole plenty of games for the Blues and did his best to be a true number one, though it wasn't in his skill-set.
2010-11 Combined Goaltending Stats (Through 69 games)
.899 save percentage
An overall save percentage below .900% is troubling. We all know Halak hasn't been what we had hoped, but unless he steps up next season, we could all be looking at a more expensive version of Chris Mason.
Coming into this year, I knew Halak had his streaks. I knew his outrageous play against Washington and Pittsburgh in the playoffs was one of those streaks. With the good, comes the bad as he definitely has his cold streaks too.
I'd hoped that even with these streaks, Halak would be a better option in net and streaks aside, his total numbers would best the ones we saw last season. I'd hoped that he would refine his game, learn from his hot performances and slowly chip away at the number of off nights he has.
We can't be too quick to judge Halak, but we also can't be too slow to judge him either. One year of his four-year deal is already in the books and while there are still games left, I'd barely give him a passing grade.
What the numbers don't indicate are the big games where Halak has failed to show up - something Mason seemed to rise to the occasion for. Big games where the Blues need reliability in net and Halak carelessly lets in a softie, just to crush the team's spirit.
This sort of intangible stat is the most troubling to me as a fan. If Halak can't bring his A-game on a regular basis he should at least be fired up to play against teams like Detroit and Chicago amongst other rivals. While Halak can't be faulted for all of the goals that the team allowed against the Red Wings last night, he certainly can't be let off the hook either.
This four-year deal will be won or lost next season. In year two, there can't be any excuses. The Blues can not afford a weak year from Halak in 2011-12.