Predictions are a fool’s game, but one that I feel pretty safe with is that Jaroslav Halak’s welcome in St. Louis on Thursday will be far more subdued than his farewell to Montreal last weekend.
That’s not to take away from the intent behind the Blues organization inviting the public to the new goaltender’s official welcome. It’s a nice touch and I suspect there will be a number of die hard Blues hockey fans at the Scottrade Center Atrium when it happens.
Halak’s arrival of course, should excite them. He is young and talented, and he was a big-time playoff star just a couple of months ago playing under the white-hot glare of Montreal.
Problem is Halak wasn’t the chosen one by the Canadiens organization. That distinction belongs to Carey Price, who is three years younger and has been seen as the franchise goalie since Montreal drafted him fifth overall in 2005. But Halak took away the starting job from Price at mid-season and led heartstopping upset playoff wins over powerhouses Washington and Pittsburgh to become the fans' chosen one.
Not that it mattered because the Canadiens still traded Halak to St. Louis in June for a couple of prospects. The deal shocked a lot of people and was widely disparaged, but it landed the netminder a nice new $15 million contract and elevated Halak’s status in the place he was leaving behind. That was pretty evident when Halak was in Montreal to sign autographs for a charity, and fans started arriving at the suburban mall six hours before he was scheduled to appear. By the time it was over, Halak had signed autographs, taken pictures and greeted some 5,000 people.
Now there will be some nights when that’s as many fans as he will play before in St. Louis.