Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks show Havlat what he's missing; Huet shines in beating Minnesota 3-1

Martin Who?

Martin Havlat is so far out of the picture it's a wonder anybody thought the Blackhawks may miss last season's team-leading scorer even a little bit, at least until Marian Hossa returns in a few weeks to take over the top offensive role.

Havlat made an early run at goaltender Cristobal Huet Monday night, but Huet stopped him nicely. That set the tone for a strong first period from Huet, who allowed only a power-play score in the third period that kept him from recording a second straight shutout at United Center and putting to bed any conflicts between him and the fans.

Nashville and the Wild are not offensive powerhouses, and yet Huet's 3-1 triumph against Minnesota (following his shutdown performance against the Predators) has swelled the Hawks' record to 7-3-1 and ballooned their overall confidence. He has started to roll and certainly joined his teammates in establishing a solid start to the season.

To have won two straight games since the concussion loss of important cogs Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook speaks again to the Hawks' depth of talent. Say what you will about defenseman Brent Sopel, but he has been an able partner for Duncan Keith in place of Seabrook, while center Dave Bolland has stepped up his effort with Toews sidelined.

Bolland's pass to the middle set up Andrew Ladd's first-period shot as the Hawks attacked Minnesota goalie Nik Backstrom. Havlat got caught trying to be a hero and pick off Jordan Hendry's cross-ice pass in the neutral zone.

With Havlat out of the picture literally on the ice, Bolland was able to score at the left crease when he hammered home the rebound of Ladd's shot.

Troy Brouwer was also rewarded offensively for his strong play early this season. He scored off a Keith shot with Tomas Kopecky helping screen at the net.

The second period was not a thing of beauty for either team. The Hawks struggled again to set up a power-play structure that could threaten and Huet fumbled a puck that he dived to shove awkwardly away for a rare miscue by him in this game.

No matter. The Wild are now 0-8 in road games. And while general manager Chuck Fletcher assured Versus viewers that his disappointing club was playing a little better systematically than it had been during an in-game interview, Fletcher had to be using an invisible measuring stick only he apparently could see.

Patrick Kane finished off the scoring in the third period with his signature flourish. He poked the puck loose from the Wild behind the net on the right, skated out on the left and lifted an amazing shot over Backstrom, who was down trying to protect the left side of the goal and unable to stop Patty The Kid's trick shot.

He sometimes looks like Annie Oakley on skates. He can fire into the smallest hole.

The Hawks penalty killing was sensational, although they can also be blamed again for racking up far too many penalties. If that trend continues, it'll be a problem. But let's hope they are simply going through a bad spell of exuberance here that they are fighting through admirably and will soon cut down the mistakes.

The PK again gave John Madden and Kris Versteeg chances to shine. So they turned bad into good.

"Our penalty killing was fantastic and the difference tonight," Huet said modestly.

Havlat kicked Huet off his skates at one point without a call against him. That was the one time Havlat had Huet off balance.

If there was one concern it was seeing defenseman Brian Campbell caught flatfooted and leaning back on his heels when he should be playing more aggressive defense in his own zone.

I know, I know. He's an offensive defenseman. But I would I like to see him more alert and determined with much sharper decision-making in his end. I want it all, especially for what he's being paid.

No big deal. I nit-pick. Times are good and should get real good as the months go along and Hossa joins the show and the fog of war clears from the heads of Toews and Seabrook.

The Hawks can play a whole lot better than they have been. Imagine that. What will we be seeing when that happens?

It just means that your Stanley Cup dreams can sleep safe for the moment. Those chances definitely seem real.

The weather may be damp, gloomy and raw this October in Chicago. But if you need a reason to smile, the Hawks are there for you.

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9 Comments

VegasHawksFan said:

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That was a lot of penalties and they were lucky to kill them. Somewhere Huet haters are prolly sulking a bit or whining to friends that he is only prolonging the inevitable and making it worse for whoever has to come in and pick up the pieces after him. Soft teams or not, he has faced real scoring chances and stood up now for two games.

Dave Morris said:

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Nucklehead12, I couldn't agree more.

Count Cristo made it count. Again.

Of course, they all count, especially against pesky puckpushers like the Predicators and the Minnies, who have been known to give the Hawkey Flock more than a few Extra Strength Tylenol headaches.

I say, Uncle Mike, is Johnny 'Fighting Devil Dog' Madden turning out to be a quality acquisition or what?

These victories, modest though they may be, can make a big difference down the road.

Jerry Kayne said:

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It's only nit picking if you do it after a win in the post-game.

There's no excuse to not be a 2-way player, especially for an elite salaried player. Cup winning teams have a number of great 2-way players, why shouldn't Campbell make himself the best defenseman in the game?

I prefer a stay-at-home defenseman that can join the play, and captain the power play. That's what was expected of Campbell when we signed him. He makes the wrong entry on the power play every time. If he scored more to offset his defense on a consistent basis I'd call him am "offensive defenseman." So far I don't see him that way. I see him as an offensive wannabe.

I'd like to see Campbell improve on his defensive game so opponents think twice before undressing him in front of his own goalie. I don't think my expectations are too high for him.

PS. no one's buying the spin-o-rama anymore. Time for a 2nd trick to add to the bag.

Alligator Derski said:

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The Hawks and Huet looked great last night. Interesting how you are no longer calling for Huet's head on a platter...

Mark Kiley said:

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Let's agree to give Huet a little more time before deciding whether the Frenchman is a bust or a Stanley Cup caliber goaltender. He has looked better the past two games on home ice. However, the victories were against Nashville and Minnesota, possibly the two worst teams in the Western Conference. Hopefully, Huet can parlay the wins into a nice confidence-building run. Two games is a small sample size to determine if the goalie has worked out all the kinks.

Mike Kiley said:

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If the Frenchman's head on a platter tastes like escargot, I might call for it again, even if he's winning. I'm kinda hungry.

Alligator Derski said:

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Oh I don't think he has worked out all the kinks, but just like two games is too little time to make a judgment on him being the guy, his first few games were also too little time to make a judgment on him being a complete goat. That being said, I was raging over some of the goals he let in along with everyone else.

I was sitting at the game last night and my buddy mentioned to me that his red pads make him look smaller, and then we realized his pads were white. That's a good start, and clearly he's working on staying on his feet moving laterally instead of quickly dropping into a butterfly.

misty said:

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Gee, ya think Havlat knows what he's missing? Duh

Mike Kiley said:

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Duh-re-me.

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