COSTA MESA, Calif. — The inconsistency that has defined the Islanders this season stretches to all areas of their game. Even during the run of seven consecutive starts for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, nothing has been the same from start to start, other than the Isles’ failure to secure points.
“I’ll put it this way: At times we are working hard but not smart,” Halak said after the Islanders practiced in Anaheim on Monday in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the Ducks. “That’s why our record is not as good as it should be. We all feel, the players and coaches, fans, too, we know we have to get better. Can’t really talk about it too much, just have to go out and do it.”
Halak’s play during his seven-start streak has been decent, but there have been down moments, such as the late softie he allowed in Sunrise, Florida, on Nov. 12 to let the Panthers tie a game the Islanders went on to lose in overtime. There have been breakdowns, such as the one that let Trevor Daley walk on to a puck with tons of room to blast it past Halak to tie Friday night’s game before the Penguins won that one in OT.
And there has been a distinct lack of offense from Halak’s teammates, who have produced only 14 goals in those seven games. That helps explain Halak’s 1-2-4 record during that run.
“With Jaro, he’d be the first to tell you a couple of the goals that squeezed through him, he’d like to have back. But when he’s been playing well, we haven’t had any run support for him, either,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I know how much he wants to win and we couldn’t help him in those situations.”
With games Tuesday night in Anaheim, Wednesday night in Los Angeles and Friday afternoon in San Jose, Halak’s start streak will come to an end. Thomas Greiss has been biding his time and will get one of the two starts in Southern California. With another three-in-four scenario coming next week, there’s even a chance that J-F Berube, the forgotten man of the Isles’ three-goaltender arrangement, will get a start in the next two weeks.
Goaltending, like other areas of the Islanders’ game, is not the sole culprit for the bad start to the season, but it isn’t exactly covering up other flaws. Of the 45 goaltenders with at least six appearances this season, Greiss ranks 21st in even-strength save percentage at .921. Halak is tied for 34th at .908.
Last season, Greiss (.933) was seventh in that category and Halak (.919) was 33rd, with Greiss getting the majority of the games.
Halak’s run of action coincided with a Twitter post by his agent, Allan Walsh, that the Islanders’ decision to carry three goaltenders is ridiculous (Walsh also represents Berube). General manager Garth Snow responded by making Halak available for a trade. Then Capuano decided to give Halak a chance to seize the No. 1 goaltending job.
“Whatever one of my agents said, it doesn’t come from me,” Halak said. “I just try to focus on hockey. As a player, you never want to be in that situation, being in between, but it’s in the past. I’m trying to focus on the present and moving forward. As a team, we’re not in a great situation. We still have a lot of games left. We have to start playing the way we can, play the whole game.”