Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has never led the NHL in any individual category at the end of the season in his entire nine-year career.
He came close once in 2011-12 when he posted a 1.97 GAA, which was fourth best in the league that year. That didn’t, however, help keep Halak in St. Louis as the Blues traded him away two years later.
The 30-year-old netminder is in his second year with the New York Islanders and is perhaps enjoying his best season to date. Fantasy owners are enjoying it too mostly due to the fact Halak has a legitimate chance of leading the league in a very important goalie category.
Through his first 15 starts, Halak is 7-4-3 with an very good 2.00 GAA, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts. His GAA places him fifth in the league among qualified goaltenders. Halak has allowed more than two goals in just four games this season, and opponents have tallied greater than three scores only once.
Since yielding three goals in the first period against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 20, Halak is 2-0-1 with a 1.26 GAA and .949 save percentage. That includes matching Henrik Lundqvist save for save and only allowing one goal to the rival Rangers on Wednesday. Halak also didn’t permit a goal in overtime or the shootout as the Islanders won, 2-1.
That should put any questions fans had regarding Halak in a shooutout to rest. He allowed five goals on five shots in his previous shootout against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 27.
There are still other questions, however, with respect to Halak’s fantasy value.
The biggest is the fact he is basically splitting time with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, who has appeared in two fewer games (13) than Halak this season (15).
That is somewhat surprising, as Greiss is a career backup. He is already over half way to his career-high of 25 appearances in one season. In 2014-15 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Greiss made 20 appearances and started 18 games. He already has 10 starts this season.
In terms of total ice time, Halak has 872 minutes of ice time through the first 28 games while Greiss has 769 minutes.
As unexpected as the split-net time may be, it still shouldn’t be too shocking. Halak has never really been a workhorse netminder. The most starts he has ever made over one season in his career was 59, which actually came last season. Prior to 2014-15, he only started more than 50 games in a season on two other occasions.
Halak may not be on pace for 50-plus starts again, but perhaps the reason the 30-year-old is posting some career-high numbers is because of the extra rest. A little healthy competition doesn’t hurt either.
“I hope they are pushing each other; that’s what you want,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said according to the NY Daily News. “We’ve got two great goalies here. Jaro (Halak) is our guy, he’s been there for us, but it’s good to see those guys pushing one another.”
That should help ease the minds of fantasy owners that are concerned at the lower amount of playing time for Halak. As long as his GAA is around 2.00, there is no way he isn’t going to get consistent starts. The Islanders just simply have the luxury of being able to win with two different goaltenders, which allows Halak to receive extra rest.
Clearly, it is working. Of course, there is a long way to go, but those are stellar numbers from a player ranked the 12th best fantasy goaltender prior to the season according to Fantasy Pros.
Other goaltenders towards the top of the GAA list like Holtby, Ben Bishop, Cory Schneider, and Henrik Lundqvist still have more value than Halak, because they are going to post tremendous averages over the course of 50 and, in some cases, 60 games.
But fantasy owners should still love Halak because he is still vastly outplaying his preseason ADP. And with more rest expected moving forward, he should continue doing so in 2015-16.