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Top 5 Best Saves: Jaroslav Halak

Although Sidney Crosby captured the World Cup of Hockey MVP award, no one can argue that Team Europe goaltender Jaroslav Halak deserved praise for his outstanding play in net.

It didn’t matter where you were reading your World Cup of Hockey news, there was one theme that was constant throughout: Team Europe is shocking the hockey world. This was due in large part to Halak’s breathtaking play in the crease.

The Slovakian netminder saw an average of 37 shots on goal per game, yet allowed a measly 13 goals against in all six games. His .941 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average were right on par with the tournament’s winning goaltender, Carey Price.

Sound defensive play, timely goal scoring and a commitment to head coach Ralph Krueger’s system were all factors to Europe’s unforeseen success. But without Halak between the pipes, it’s unlikely Europe would have been as close as they were.

The dynamite goaltender, who will now be joining his NHL team, the New York Islanders, recorded some prolific highlight-reel saves throughout the tournament. Here are his top five.

5. Halak Shuts the Door on Sidney Crosby From a Bad Angle

Game 3 of tournament: Canada 4, Europe 1

In the three games that Canada and Europe squared off, Halak saw a lot of rubber. Even though Europe was a well-structured opponent for the Canadians, the tournament victors piled shot-after-shot on Halak and his defense. Albeit from a bad angle, this save comes after a shot from the point deflected to the corner, forcing Halak to move to the side and cover his angle as quickly as possible. Bad angle or not, Crosby is as deadly as they come in the offensive zone.

4. Halak Robs Justin Abdelkader on the Doorstep

Game 1 of tournament: Europe 3, USA 0

In his lone shutout of the tournament, Halak played brilliantly against Team USA, setting the table for their 0-3 finish. He stopped 35 shots in the contest, but none were better than this beaut on Abdelkader in the slot. After T.J. Oshie’s shot ricocheted in front, Abdelkader scooped it up and threw it on goal. Halak was quick to muddle USA’s bid for a tally, which would have cut Europe’s two-goal lead in half. Needless to say, this save was a game changer.

3. Jack Eichel Can’t Buy a Goal

Game 1 of tournament exhibition: North America 4, Europe 0

Pre-tournament games count, right? After watching this save on Buffalo Sabres young phenom Jack Eichel, you’ll agree this belongs in the list. Europe was struggling to find its legs early, as Team North America worked them over in both teams’ opening game. Halak was razor sharp, though, as North America spent the majority of the game in the offensive zone. Although they piled on four goals, Eichel couldn’t figure out Halak, as his four shots on goal all found their way into Halak’s 5-feet-11-inch frame. This one would have opened the scoring for Team North America, as Europe was already on their heels five minutes into the contest.

2. Stamkos Can’t Add to the Lead

Game 3 of tournament: Canada 4, Europe 1

On a bit of a broken play, Halak stunned one of the NHL’s top snipers. Stamkos received the puck from John Tavares and redirected it to the net, only to see Halak’s glove waiting for the puck. It seemed as if nobody else on the ice could telegraph the play except for the European backstop. Although Canada went on to hand Europe its first loss in the tournament, Halak made them work for it.

1. Halak Eats Up the Open Net

(this can be also be seen in the above video, starting at 0:31)

Game 3 of tournament: Canada 4, Europe 1

As if his astounding save on Stamkos wasn’t enough for Team Canada to endure, Halak made arguably the save of the tournament on Brad Marchand about a minute and a half later. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot was deflected away by European defender Roman Josi, but it trickled right to a waiting Marchand on the other side of the net. A 37-goal scorer in 2015-16, Marchand one-timed the puck to the net but Halak committed highway robbery, sliding over to make not one, but two saves on the Canadian sniper. This miraculous late-period stop kept Team Europe in shouting distance of Canada, allowing for some team confidence to build during the first intermission.

Did you enjoy our coverage of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? Stay tuned to Everything Hockey throughout the 2016-17 NHL season for more exclusive content!
Feature photo courtesy kkthemook | Flickr

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Tags : Brad Marchandjack eicheljaroslav halakjohn tavaresjustin abdelkadersidney crosbysteven stamkosT.J. Oshieteam canadateam europeteam north americateam usa
Jeff Ponder

The author Jeff Ponder

Jeff brings a wealth of hockey retail experience to xHockeyProducts, as well as a vast knowledge of marketing and content development. Jeff is also a former hockey reporter for various media outlets in the St. Louis area and has attended numerous NHL Entry Drafts. He has played hockey since the age of 10.

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