Time will tell if the Montreal Canadiens made the right decision promoting the highly touted rookie goaltender Carey Price instead of Jaroslav Halak, the odd man out. Last night, Price made his debut in net for the Habs, a game that Halak must have been paying close attention to. Price had the pleasure of starting his first game versus the likes of Sidney Crosby, Mark Recchi and Evgeni Malkin but seemed unphased between the pipes. He stopped 26 out of 28 shots en route to his first NHL victory exactly 22 years to the night where Patrick Roy won his first game versus the same Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two netminders battled it out during training camp for the coveted backup spot behind Cristobal Huet on the Canadiens roster. On October 1st, 2007, it was announced that Price would obtain the spot, a decision that left many around the league shocked.
Halak was sent back down to the defending Calder Cup champions, Hamilton Bulldogs, a scene where only months before Price was getting another accolade – the Calder Cup playoff MVP. The 22-year-old Halak has had an impressive start to his career. After moving up the ranks in the hockey world, he made his debut with Hamilton in the 2005-06 season, playing in 13 games. The next year, the Slovakian native made 28 starts for the Bulldogs, 16 of them wins, prompting immediate attention from Canadiens.
On February 15th, 2007, Halak was called up to the Habs due to an injury to Huet. At that point, he was leading the way with a 2.00 goals-against-average in the American Hockey. Three days later, he made his debut in goal with the big club. In that game, he made 31 saves in a victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Halak would go on to make 16 starts for the Canadiens, ten of which were wins. He was also able to record two shutouts in his rookie campaign against their rival, the Boston Bruins. As he continues to hone his skills with the Bulldogs, he is already the subject of many trade rumors. Price may be getting all of the attention now, but Halak’s time may be just around the corner.