On Tuesday night the Washington Capitals started off a three-game swing through California against the Anaheim Ducks in fine fashion, picking up a crucial 3-2 victory. The star of the game for Washington was goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 43 out of 45 shots and showed why he has the team on a one-way road to the NHL Playoffs.
Throughout the night Halak showed the dominance that the Capitals were hoping for when they acquired him, as he helped fend off four power play opportunities in the second period and five for the game as a whole. Few of the plays he made on the night were absolutely spectacular, but his consistency blocking shots, great movement in the crease, ability to play the puck and ability to cover the puck was spectacular in total.
It is this combination of small attributes that makes the 28-year-old a dominant force more than pure physical prowess, but it is clear he makes Washington a better team. Since joining the Capitals at the NHL Trade Deadline, Halak has played six out of seven games and picked up a 4-2-0 record, 2.35 GAA, and .931 save percentage. After sitting out the first game it has been no secret that Braden Holtby is now consigned to the bench and that Halak is the man who will make or break Washington’s playoff hopes this year.
Thankfully for Washington, the team as a whole seems to be playing a more physically imposing, structured and efficient game since Halak has been on board. In the six games that the goalie has played with the Capitals the team has only allowed two goals against on 20 penalty kill opportunities, and they have scored on seven out of 18 power play appearances. Furthermore, youngster Evgeny Kuznetsov has assimilated seamlessly into the Capitals lineup, Alexander Ovechkin has shown added defensive acumen, the team’s third line has been dominant and Mike Green has returned to his top form.
All in all, things are looking up for the Capitals as they head into their final 12 games of the regular season, and it is hard to deny that Halak has played a huge role in this. The 28-year-old goaltender has stabilized the entire team from the back end, and it is hard to deny that Washington has a huge edge as they look to jump out of a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and into the playoffs.