Jan 2, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) celebrate win over Calgary Flames with teammates after the game at Scotiabank Saddledome. New York Islanders won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
When your team is in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since a year beginning in an 8, there is a good, solid reason for this. Many players on your team are playing well, some exceptionally so. In hockey, your forwards are your first line of defense. You need a strong forecheck to try and throw off the other team. Generally, the opposition will beat the forecheck. This is where your defense steps in. The defenseman try to block shots, cause turnovers, find the open forwards for a break up the ice, and in general, cause chaos for the other team. As is, the opposition will generally find a way to shoot the puck on net, and this is where you need to be solid. The goaltender is a team’s last line of defense. If you don’t have solid goaltending, you’ve got nothing. This is why Jaroslav Halak is the MVP for the New York Islanders at the halfway point of the season. He has stolen games for them. He won ELEVEN STRAIGHT STARTS. Think about that. He broke Billy Smith’s franchise record with that streak. With a 23-8-0 record this season, and a .917 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA, Jaroslav Halak deserves every ounce of praise he gets. Backup goalie, and also an offseason acquisition, Chad Johnson, has been shaky this year, to say the least. Jaro put the team on his back when they needed it most.