Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak looked the picture of frustration when discussing Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, especially the first period, when he gave up three goals that weren’t necessarily his fault but still put his team in a huge hole.
“Obviously, it’s not the start I hoped for,” Halak said after the game.
He meant the first period, but that statement also applies to his overall place in the Islanders’ goaltending rotation. He hadn’t started in four games after playing in the 5-0 loss in Dallas nine days earlier. Thomas Greiss had started and won the three games in between, cementing his current status as the top choice for coach Doug Weight.
The numbers aren’t kind to either Islanders goaltender through 20 games, though the 3.25 goals per game the team has allowed (23rd in the NHL) can’t entirely be pinned on Halak and Greiss. But among the 33 NHL goaltenders with at least 10 starts, Halak’s .916 even-strength save percentage is tied for 19th. Greiss’ .908 is 25th, but the fact that the Isles have averaged 3.6 goals per game (third in the NHL) has mitigated the damage.
Sunday’s loss highlighted Halak’s biggest problem this season: He’s been on the short end of three Islanders losses in which the opposing goaltender has been the difference.
Cam Ward was superb in making 27 saves for the Hurricanes, including a few desperation stops in a second period that the Islanders dominated, putting 30 attempts toward Ward.
In Anaheim on Oct. 11, John Gibson made 39 saves to outduel Halak in a 3-2 Ducks win. On Nov. 2 in Washington, Braden Holtby made 36 saves in a 4-3 Caps win. So Halak has not done a poor job. It just doesn’t look so hot at times when compared with what other teams’ goaltenders have done.
“I thought Jaro played well, he battled,” Weight said Sunday. “We miss an assignment off a draw [on the first goal] and the next one goes off a skate. It’s tough.”
The Islanders have three sets of back-to-back games among their next 13, so Weight will need both of his goaltenders to be ready. For Halak to get back into a more regular rotation, it would appear that he, rather than the goalie in the other net, will need to be the one stealing points.