Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/11/13
Jaroslav Halak trained this summer like he never had before in three seasons as a Blue. The reason was to strengthen his groin which would help him avoid any lingering issues with an injury that sidelined him twice in 2012-13. What began as a preventative measure could be viewed too as a proactive push with regard to Halak’s conditioning. Without the injury perhaps the Blues goaltender doesn’t rededicate himself in the weight room. And without that commitment who knows where Halak would be entering the 2013-14 season the last on his contract. Instead Blues fans know right where to find Halak in the crease and arguably topping the list of reasons the team is still unblemished at 3-0 heading into Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers. Among goalies with three appearances this season he’s tied for fourth in the NHL in goals-against average (1.33) and save-percentage (.948). “Everybody knows how hard he worked in the summer and it’s showing on the ice” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “He’s been outstanding the first few of games. He’s always been quick and strong (but) I mean sure you notice the difference. He looks better than he ever has.” A year after taking home the Jennings Trophy Halak and Brian Elliott went into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with high hopes. But those quickly faded when Halak exited a Feb. 1 game in Detroit with a groin injury. Halak attempted to return Feb. 11 but tweaked the injury in warm-ups and stayed on the shelf until Feb. 20. He made 11 more appearances but on April 1 in Minnesota Halak exited again with a second groin injury. The netminder returned as a backup for the final two games of the regular season and the playoffs but was never seen again on the ice. “Jaro didn’t play because he got hurt” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “If he doesn’t get hurt he’s playing.” Halak ended his injury-riddled season with a 6-5-1 record a respectable 2.14 goals-against average but a salty .899 save-percentage. Despite a sensational finish by Elliott including a franchise record 11 wins in April Hitchcock this summer tabbed Halak as the team’s starter. “In fairness for Jaro we needed to start from scratch again” he said. “But Jaro had to do his part too. He had to come in better shape so that he didn’t put that injury back in play again. That’s exactly what the doctor told him when he went for the (offseason) evaluation. ‘You don’t need surgery but your conditioning level is going to dictate the strength of this muscle.’” In the process of strengthening his quads Halak lowered his body-fat percentage to eight percent from 14 percent. His physique appears to have more definition in the eyes of some and all can agree that his game is more defined.
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