New York Hockey: Jaroslav Halak

W2W4: Blues vs. Rangers

November, 7, 2010
Apologies for the late post folks, but the old Interwebs were acting up on me today. But with some prime time action at MSG tonight, I wanted to be sure and post three key factors to watch when the smoking St. Louis Blues battle the New York Rangers tonight.

The Blues have only lost once in regulation this season. Not a bad mark 11 games into the season, eh? Part of the reason for that success has been the Blues’ dominant performance at even strength. St. Louis currently owns a 1.89 GF/GA when skating five aside, meaning they're outscoring their opposition almost 2-to-1. That's the best mark in the NHL. New goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been a big part of producing that margin, posting a .944 SV% to start the season, the best of any goalie with more than eight starts.

The Rangers are no slouches at even strength either (1.20 GF/GA) but they could definitely use some tightening up in another key area …

The PK
The Blueshirts have been burned by penalties throughout the season, giving up an average of one power-play goal per game. When you consider that the Rangers have lost two games by either one goal or in OT, and two more where empty-netters made the final score a two-goal margin, it’s pretty safe to say the PK is keeping New York from reaching the upper levels of the Eastern Conference so far.

Martin Biron
Biron has been up and down in his two starts thus far, and he’ll get his third nod of the season Saturday night. He should be busy, as the Blues generate the second-most shots per game in the league (34.1). Defenseman Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo love to boom shots from the point as well, so Marc Staal and Co. will need to keep Biron’s sightlines clear of screeners.

How Biron improves Blueshirts for playoffs

September, 3, 2010
A few days back, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said the acquisition of backup netminder Martin Biron would be huge in helping him stay fresh for the playoffs. Whether the Blueshirts can get back to the second season is another issue, but his assessment about regular-season heavy lifting and playoff fall-off is right on the money.

For the past two seasons, ESPN Insider has teamed with Puck Prospectus to serve up a Hot Goalie Index heading into the playoffs. The idea was to see if we could find a way to predict which goalies were most likely to stand on their head and steal a series. The formula for the index is based on several factors, but one of them is fresh legs. Author, and formula creator, Timo Seppa explains in the 2009 article:
“It's not a long-term trend, but over the past four postseason tournaments, there is a strong indication that a greater workload may decrease a goalie's chances of winning a playoff series. Over that period, the average playoff series-winning goalie played in six fewer regular-season games and faced 170 fewer shots on goal than his opponent. As a case in point, a well-rested Chris Osgood posted a .930 save percentage last postseason [2008], after facing only 976 shots over 43 games during the regular season.”

Here’s what the index looked like last season. For non-Insiders, the top four are Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask and Antti Niemi. I think we all remember how well those last three netminders carried their teams in the postseason. And it seems more than a coincidence that none of those three started more than 43 games last season.

Lundqvist isn’t going to sit for half a season, but giving him a few extra nights’ rest could go a long way in the playoffs. Now the Rangers just have to, you know, get there.

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