When the Islanders signed Jaroslav Halak to a four-year contract last May, fans were just hoping for an everyday goalie that gave the team a chance to win by posting a save percentage somewhere north of "awful."
Ten months later, Halak (33-13-0) sits atop the Islanders record book after recording his 33rd win of the season, the most for a goalie in a single season with the club. The 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames breaks a four-way tie with Billy Smith (1981-82), Rick DiPietro (06-07) and Chris Osgood (01-02), who all had 32-win seasons.
Halak made 26 saves against the Flames and played the same game he's brought throughout his first season with the Islanders; calm and controlled with an extra dash of drama. He stopped a penalty shot, came 20 seconds from a shutout - before being beaten by a Josh Jooris defection - and even took a well-aimed (but blocked) shot at an empty net which would have put a hilarious cherry on top of a pretty great night for the goalie.
The Islanders have 19 games remaining in the regular season and it's likely Halak will start at about half of them, giving him plenty of time to pad his record.
Nobody expected Halak to beat an Islanders record held by an icon, a mainstay and a flash from a magical moment in time. But he was the baby step in a bold re-configuring of the franchise. He was the first new player signed for this season, well before the off-season even began, and he would eventually be joined by two talented forwards and two steady defensemen that would mix with the established core to finally make the Islanders a team to watch.
The ultimate goal isn't regular season wins and Halak knows that (the post-win video below is remarkable in its nonchalance). He's always the first guy to say wins are a team effort. But re-writing the team's record book is a hell of a way to gear up for the playoffs.