When an NHL season wraps up, the head coach meets with individual players to discuss their performance over the last seven months. In those "exit" interviews, the way a player believes he performed, and the way a coach saw it, can be two contrasting opinions. Blues coach Davis Payne is glad it wasn't that way with goaltender Jaroslav Halak. "I had a great conversation with Jaro about his year, how he felt it went, where are the areas of concern that we would have … and they matched up," Payne said. In his first full season as a No. 1 NHL goaltender, and with a new team in a new conference, Halak went 27-21-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Payne and Halak agreed that while those numbers weren't disappointing, they could improve next season by better handling the mental grind of being the starter and by understanding the difference in the style of play in the Western Conference. "It takes time," Payne said. "There's a learning curve, there's an understanding of how to get yourself back ready again, how to hit that reset button, whether it's a bad goal, bad period, bad game ... or a good period, good save, good game. The reset button has to get hit." In his first season on a Western Conference team, the former Montreal Canadien went 20-19-6 with a 2.65 GAA and a .903 save percentage against the West and 7-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA and a .940 save percentage against the East. "There's a different element when you're playing Detroit and how they attack, a different element when you play Vancouver and the other top teams out West," Payne said. "(But Halak was) very, very accurate in what he saw and the adjustments that he needs to make." They also touched on the fitness level that Halak needs as a starter. "We feel that it's going to be a real important year for him as far as strength and conditioning goes because of the workload that he will face," Payne said. "Is he a 60-game guy, a 60-plus game guy? In order for him to hit that number or beyond, the body has to be ready for it, so this is a real important time for Jaro to take care of that as well." As Halak heads off to play for Slovakia at the IIHF World Championships, Payne said that he and Halak were "excited about how (his season) finished, and he obviously liked how it started. He feels that there was more during the middle part of that year — especially January — where he could have been sharper."
Halak, Payne on same page going forward
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Apr 19