By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After a rough Game 4 outing saved by a third-period takeover for the ages, Jaroslav Halak was in need of a bounceback.
Fortunately for the Bruins and the 35-year-old backup-turned-starter, Game 5 was an elimination game.
“Jaro was terrific tracking pucks, making the saves when we needed them and really looked comfortable in the net tonight,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Another veteran guy that didn’t get rattled and helped us get through the tough times.”
Peppered with 24 shots, Halak turned aside all but one Haydn Fleury bullet to punch the Black and Gold’s ticket to the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Halak’s best work probably came in the opening period of play, too, with a sliding stop on a high-quality look from the Hurricanes’ Justin Williams.
Halak also somehow kept the puck out of his net (with a little help from the Boston penalty killers) on what was an absolutely bananas sequence in front of his net early in the second period, and buckled down for the dub with easy stops in the third.
It was enough to power Halak to his third win in as many starts since the (real) playoffs began — and since he replaced Tuukka Rask as the B’s No. 1 netminder — and with a 1.69 goals against average and .932 save percentage over that span.
But, again, let’s focus on this part: It was an elimination game and Halak was in net. Because that’s really all you needed to know that Halak was going to give you something great.
Halak began the day with some fantastic numbers in eight career elimination games between the Canadiens and Islanders, at 6-2 and with a .953 save percentage. He ended Wednesday with seven wins and a .954 save percentage in elimination games. Just think about that: A man that entered play with an already-ridiculous, superhuman save percentage in this scenario actually bumped it up with his Game 5 performance. Complete and total insanity. He’s surrendered just one goal or less in four of those nine games, too.
Nails. Absolute nails.
It was the kind of performance you needed to see after Game 4, when the reality and the pressure of the situation that he’s thee guy from here on out may have fully hit the veteran goaltender, and one Halak delivered with an exclamation point.
The Bruins will need plenty more nights like that if they’re going to keep this train moving along, too.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.