St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak was preparing to come back from a groin injury and at least back up rookie sensation Jake Allen for the first time in two weeks, but the Blues backstop still took time out to answer a few questions from InGoal Magazine readers.
It’s not the first time Halak has participated in Ask A Pro. His answers last time included insights into his equipment, his heroes growing up, goalie coaching in his native Slovakia and how he ended up working with current Canucks guru Rollie Melanson. He didn’t have quite as much time this visit, but the answers were still helpful for his fellow puck-stoppers.
A lot of the questions focussed on Halak’s equipment, some of which were answered in this week’s Brian’s Pad of the Week segment, which focuses on the new look he helped design. But Halak was also the perfect person to ask about coming back from injury, given he was preparing to do so after missing a couple of weeks. So that’s where we’ll start.
~ InGoal reader Gordon A Carr asks: How do you deal with coming back from injury?
Halak: “I think the biggest thing, the most important thing, is just to go back to basics: push and stop. And as you get comfortable doing that. Then you can speed it up and move faster. And when you are doing the little drills at the beginning, you want to do them right, you know, push off the post, stop, and then move to the next position. Especially coming back from injury and in the offseason, I think that’s the key for a goalie.”
~ At what point do you add pucks and saves into the routine?
Halak: “There are always drills that do that, so many goalie drills, and you can just pick any and you can do the movements, the backdoor plays with ony two guys. You can do things like shots from the top of the circle, push from the post to that spot, make the save and then he makes a backdoor play. It’s always game situation if you treat it that way, but it’s always different from a regular practice with the guys and it’s different also practice shape to game shape.”
~ InGoal reader Jarod Manuel asks on Facebook “What do you wear for knee protection? Knee pads, thigh wraps or both?”
Halak: “I’ve been using Brian’s kneepads since the beginning – they made them for me during the last lockout. They feel really good and have great protection, but they are not huge, but also not too small.”
[*Editor's note: A version of Halak's Brian's big-but-mobile kneepads should be available at retail in the near future, perhaps even this year]
~ InGoal reader Luke Rakoske asks through Facebook: “Any tips on mentally staying in the game? My mind tends to wander, LOL.”
Halak: “I know not all the goalies like it when they don’t get a lot of shots. Everybody wants to see 30-plus shots a game, but not every night you get them. I think the biggest thing is to stay focused, not to get disturbed by the little things, you know, looking in the stands and stuff like that. Just focus on the play and the little rubber puck out there.”
~ The Blues go through long stretches without giving up lots of shots, especially last season – do you try and track the puck even when its at the other end to try and stay focussed? Any of other tricks you play with yourself to stay engaged?
Halak: “Yeah you have to, especially in the games where you get three, four or five shots a period. It’s really hard and you just need to stay sharp and keep watching the play and try to stay in the game. Usually you catch yourself thinking about different things and you just have to snap back to hockey and watch the puck right away. When you are not busy, your mind starts thinking and you can start think about different things, probably not on the ice but off the ice. Then you have to snap yourself out of it right away and go back to hockey and finding that little piece of rubber.”
~ John Hynes asks by email: “Your skates and cowling look really different but it’s hard to tell on TV what they are.”
Halak: “They are from the same guy who makes them for Jonas Hiller [the Ducks' goalie talked to InGoal about the custom carbon fibre cowlings in an old Ask a Pro]. The blade is a little taller and longer and I find I get a better push in the butterfly.”
~ It looks like the blade actually tapers – it appears to be 4 mm at the toe, and narrows to 3 mm a few inches back.
Halak: “You get better push off at the toe that way. I think if you look at cowling it’s a little taller than a regular cowling so maybe it gives me an extra inch. I like them so far. There are no issues with protection. A few times I thought I broke them after making a save with my toe on a hard shot from the blue line but they are fine so far.”