Jaroslav Halak was on his way to Columbus around this time last season, a late addition to the NHL All-Star Game. To earn such an honor is a bit of a mixed bag for goaltenders, who are selected for their ability to stop the puck and show up to an event where they’re expected to play the part of a piñata to the All-Star scorers putting on a show.
It’s even more of a mixed bag this year, with this weekend’s All-Star event a three-on-three tournament. “It’s going to be different,” Halak said. “I think some [goalies] might come back from it a little tired. It will be good for me to have a little break also.”
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Halak was on his way to a franchise-record 38 wins last season, his first with the Islanders. And the Isles headed into the All-Star break blazing at 31-14-1, so picking the team’s new No. 1 goaltender seemed like an easy call.
After twice missing time because of an upper-body injury, this season’s first half hasn’t been quite so kind to Halak in terms of wins and losses, but his goaltending-specific stats are better so far this season.
Halak had a .917 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average at the break last season; those numbers are .923 and 2.14 now, though the 12-9-4 record speaks more to his team’s failings in games he’s played rather than his own.
“There’s some games, some goals I want back so far this year, but I don’t think I’m playing bad hockey,” he said. “The bottom line is wins and points, getting to the playoffs, so I’d like to have more of those. It’s not going to be 38 wins again, I don’t think.”
But Halak and Thomas Greiss have formed a strong tandem that has helped get the Islanders to the break at 25-16-6, only a few points ahead of the Eastern Conference pack chasing for the playoffs. And with 35 games in 68 days when the team reconvenes next week, both Halak and Greiss will be needed for the Isles to earn their third playoff berth in four seasons.
Notes & quotes: John Tavares, the Isles’ lone All-Star representative, anticipates a different sort of event for three-on-three this weekend in Nashville. “There’ll be a little more pace, that’s for sure, than in some recent games,” said Tavares, who had four goals last year in Columbus. “At the same time, you don’t want to invest too much energy in it so that you might hurt yourself. It’ll be a good show.” . . . D Johnny Boychuk (shoulder) practiced fully on Tuesday and could be ready to return next week. D Scott Mayfield, a healthy scratch the past three games, returned to Bridgeport on Monday.