ST. LOUIS All it took was a little healthy competition to get Blues' Jaroslav Halak going. And nearly two months later, he has yet to slow down.
Halak's early season struggles are quickly becoming a distant memory as he posted his second consecutive shutout and third in his past four games to lead the Blues to a 1-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
The Blues netminder has won six starts in a row and hasn't lost a game in regulation since Nov. 22, posting a 10-0-3 in his last 13 starts.
"Jaro deserves it," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "He's played well all year. Certainly we let him down in a bunch of shootouts this year but he's showing what he's capable of."
The season couldn't have started any worse for Halak, who began to lose playing time to backup Brian Elliott after going 1-6 and posting a 3.14 goals against average and .856 save percentage in his first seven games.
And with Halak struggling, Elliott made the most of the extra playing time earning his first trip to the All-Star Game by posting a 15-5-1 record and a 1.68 GAA in 22 games.
But after a week to clear his head and regroup, Halak began his resurgence and his fight to earn back ice time with a 2-1 win over the Capitals on November 29.
He's posted a 1.56 GAA and a .941 save percentage in 13 games since his last regulation loss nearly two months ago and has allowed just seven goals in his last six games.
"I had to refresh and start over," Halak said. "It was a really bad start for me. It was like a bad dream for me, but I had to put it aside and forget about what happened and start fresh, start over. That's what I did.
"Obviously when you go through a bad stretch your confidence level goes down but I think when you have one or two good games, you pick the confidence back up and you start building on it."
Halak needed just 15 saves for Thursday's shutout, but made the key stops when ne needed to. The scoreless night upped his shutout streak to 148 minutes and 25 second, the fourth longest streak of his career.
A scoreless 11:43 to start the game Saturday against Buffalo would give Halak a new career high. Two scoreless periods would set the Blues' franchise record, currently held by Manny Legace.
Halak has been so good of late that he's even making it hard for his teammates to score in practice.
"I was just joking around with somebody earlier that we need different goalies for practice because as good as he's been in games, he's making it tough for us to score in practice," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. "He's just a guy that we all know what he's capable of and know that he's going to be there to make the saves when we need him. He made a lot of key saves for us to keep the game 0-0.
"He's on a roll right now and we just have to continue to support him and continue to play strong in front of him."
The Blues jumped out to a 17-0 shot advantage Thursday night, not allowing Edmonton's first shot on goal until almost midway through the period. Halak faced just four shots in the period and stopped them all.
Halak made seven saves in the second period and just four in the third, making a couple key saves in what was otherwise a pretty boring night.
"It's not easy for a goalie when you don't see any shots and then they get on a power play and get some shots," Halak said. "It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty but we got it done and most importantly we got those two points which is big in the standings.
"I feel good but look at the shots tonight. I didn't have to stop many shots, many scoring chances. Every game is a different game. Last game I had more shots, but still the guys are playing really good hockey right now and hopefully we can keep it going."
Halak and Elliott have combined for a 1.94 GAA, the lowest team total in the league.
And the results have been obvious. The win Thursday gave the Blues 62 points, just one behind Detroit for the most in the NHL.
Halak is expected to be in net again Saturday when the Blues host Buffalo. The Blues then play Monday at Detroit and Tuesday at home against Pittsburgh before reaching the All-Star break.