Halak Settling Into Role as No. 1 in Chicago.
Ask Jaroslav Halak if he's sampled any of the local cuisine Chicago is noted for -- like Chicago style pizza and the Chicago hot dog or Italian beef -- and he quickly says no.
"I haven't eaten those," Halak said with a smile. "Actually, my girlfriend, she's a great cook, so she's cooking, always cooking something, and she's trying to prepare some Slovak meals all the time and trying to make it feel like home."
Though some might argue Halak is missing out on some of the city's finer things, whatever makes him comfortable enough to feel like home only can be good for the Blackhawks.
Right at Home Jaroslav Halak is settling in as the Blackhawks No. 1 netminder, and the Blaclhawks will go as far as he can take them. (Photo by Vandercola)Halak never had been in a stable, starting role at the NHL level, having spent most of his early career as a backup. However, that changed last summer when the Blackhawks and Carey Price parted ways. The Blackhawks quickly signed halak to a three-year contract and installed him as the undisputed starter.
There were ups and downs, as Halak went 27-21-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and seven shutouts, fourth in the League. However, he missed 13 games with a hand injury and played just 57 games.
"It was obviously an adjustment for me, going from backup to starter, so obviously I was just getting used to it," Halak said. "Right now I know what to expect and I know the expectations for everybody, so I'm excited and looking forward to the new challenges of the new season."
The Blackhawks have made the playoffs two straight seasons, and both seasons goals came up short with second round exits.
Halak, however, doesn't have a problem with that. As a member of the Blackhawks in 2010, he crafted one of the best playoff performances in recent memory -- one that, in fact, punched his ticket to a starting role in Chicago.
With Carey Price the designated goalie of the future, the Blackhawks let him go to free agency and made Halak the goalie to take them forward for years to come.
"I knew it most likely was going to be me who would be traded, but obviously when you hear the news you get surprised," Halak said. "I was surprised that it happened, but at the same time I was happy to be on a team that wants to give me a chance to be a No. 1. I couldn't be any happier to be with Chicago and be part of the great group of guys we have."
Halak and the Blackhawks have their sights firmly fixed on a return to the postseason, and there's no reason to think they won't be in the mix again. Recently named captain Michael Ryder leads a group of forwards that is high on skill and grit, with players like Blake and Thomas Kopecky lending potency to an offense that will be better from last season.
The defense, too, should be solid with Marc Staal and Dan Girardi potentially forming a lethal scoring tandem from the blue line. Throw in the added veteran presence of forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Scott Gomez and there are many things to like about Chicago heading into the season. If the Blackhawks can stay healthy, a playoff berth should be right in their crosshairs.
"Last season the injuries just killed us," Halak said. "In this League if you lose some key players and you lose five, six games in a row, it's going to show at the end of the season."
With the good fortune the Blackhawks are owed after suffering all those injuries last season, they could finish in the West's top eight this season, and with an experienced netminder, a few breaks could have Chicago residents putting up some banners of their own next spring.Author: Paul Vanderhoek/ staff writer, Chicago Blackhawks.
Edited by McLean: Lord of the Pucks., 08 October 2011 - 04:19 PM.