Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Jaroslav Balastik: "Automatic"

My boy Jaroslav Balastik hasn't put up the best of totals, as you can see in my Jaroslav Balastik Monitor *sobs*, but at least he's been helping the Blue Jackets with his sniping skills in the shootout.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

On a Blue Jackets team with highly skilled players such as Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, Sergei Fedorov and David Vyborny, the first player on coach Gerard Gallant’s shootout list is unheralded winger Jaroslav Balastik, a rookie from the Czech Republic.

"I’ll go to him (first) every time," Gallant said recently. "Why not get one on the board early?"

Call him Jaroslav Automatik.

Balastik had the shootout winner in Saturday’s momentous 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Joe Louis Arena.

It was Balastik’s third shootout winner and the fourth time overall he’s won a game for the Blue Jackets, who play host to the San Jose Sharks tonight in Nationwide Arena.

"It makes me feel very good, of course," Balastik said, "like I’m part of the team."

Balastik is 6 of 8 (75 percent) on shootout attempts, the second-best rate in the NHL. Only Dallas’ Jussi Jokinen (9 of 11, 81.8 percent) has a higher percentage with at least eight attempts.
Hmm, well the New NHL does have room for a shootout specialist on a roster, if you stretch your delusion a little. I'm just glad he's been able to find some measure of success in a rough rookie season.

Now, does Jaroslav come back next season? Or go back to Zlin?

Balastik’s sniper skills are undeniable. On Saturday, he turned Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood inside out with a wicked little wrister inside the near post.

But Balastik’s game has some shortcomings.

He is not a gifted skater, often lagging behind the play. He’s not a physical player, despite being 6 feet 2, 205 pounds.

And, away from the bigger ice surfaces of Europe, Balastik has had trouble creating space for himself.

MacLean said he’s leaning toward bringing Balastik back, but there has "got to be a major commitment by him to improve his skating and his strength."
One other area which I believe has held back Balastik has been his reluctance to be the bane of goaltenders. Back in Czechia, Balastik hacked, whacked, and smacked goaltenders around on a routine basis. He was chippy, dirty, and just a plain pain in the ass around the goal crease. Jaro might be more afraid of the physical retribution he'd receive in the NHL. The Extraleague doesn't have many goons and enforcer types.

(Assist to Tara for the linkage)


Speaking of silky-smooth shootout artists, check out today's video clip of Michal Handzus' first shootout attempt of the season.

Even Jagr eventually got rid of his mullet. Handzus is definitely up there with the worst hair in the NHL.
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