Price or Halak?
It's a question that seemingly won't go away.
And it's the question that will haunt the Habs and their fans until, literally, the new year.
Last night, the Habs fell 4-2 to an Ottawa Senators team that was missing its two best players (Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza are both out with injuries). Despite dominating the Sens early in the game and holding a 2-1 lead well into the second period, the inability to draw penalties and a couple of flukie goals gave the Sens a 4-2 victory when it was all said and done.
While Jaroslav Halak didn't play a bad game, with at least two of the goals coming from bad angles or screen shots, it certainly wasn't the same performance which got Halak a first star of the week nod for his heroics against the Leafs, Canes and Thrashers, and the Islanders last Saturday. After facing an average of 46 shots per game in his four game win streak, Halak's save percentage dwindled to .889 in last night's game.
On the other side of the Spectrum, Carey Price hasn't seem action since dropping a 3-1 tilt and only making 18 saves against the Minnesota Wild on December 17th. He's winless in his last 4 and has but 3 wins in his last 10 games. You can bet that sitting on the bench while Halak performs magic is eating him up inside, and as good as Jaro is playing, Price needs to get back in between the pipes.
He'll get his shot before the Habs wrap up their 2009 schedule, but the question is, will he play Wednesday against the Lightning, or Thursday against the Panthers?
Although Halak seldom plays after a loss (back-up goalies rarely do), he's certainly earned a chance to redeem himself in such a situation. But if Halak pulls out another 40-50 save performance against the Lightning, he'll definitely be making a case for himself to play against the Panthers the next day. Problem is Wednesday's tilt is an early game at 5PM, which gives the Canadiens less than 20 hours of rest following the Tampa Bay game. It's almost a guarantee that Martin will be switching his goalies for that game, especially after playing 16 games in the rest of December.
On the other hand, if Price plays on Wednesday and has a monster performance of his own, does Halak go on the backburner, despite all he's done since last Saturday? It's a messy situation, and with a lot of fans jumping on the Halak bandwagon, internet forums and communities could be lit up if Martin ends up making the wrong decision.
With 4 out of a possible 5 wins on this seven game road trip so far, the Habs can count their lucky stars that they're holding on to a playoff spot this morning. Both the Thrashers and the Rangers are struggling behind them, but upcoming rivals Tampa Bay and Florida are close behind them, and the Philadelphia Flyers are starting to get back on a roll. These next two games are crucial, and the Habs are going to have to win both if they want to secure a playoff position going into January's schedule. And the goaltending decision to come could make all the difference.
And we haven't even touched on the discussion of which of the two goalies the Canadiens should trade, if it came to that... with both being pending RFAs in line for significant pay increases, Bob Gainey certainly can't keep both of them for next year. By the same token, can he afford to lose either one of them at the moment?
A more appropriate question going into tomorrow's game... who do you put in between the pipes for the last two games of the decade?
Link of the day:
- IIHF World Junior Hockey championship site at the Hockey Zen. Good stuff if you want to follow the tournament!
I'll be back with game previews for the Florida games tomorrow. In the meantime, Check out our threads sections, where you can post your own blogs and check out a bunch of different discussions!