Blackhawks Confidential

Losing isn't everything; let's give peace a chance with Hawks, Huet

peaceprize.jpgIf President Obama can win the Nobel Peace Prize, so can I.

I'm sociopathic rather than a socialist, but that shouldn't disqualify me.

That was a pretty nice 3-2 loss for the Blackhawks Thursday night in Detroit. No, I mean it. I'm serious here. Some encouraging stuff overall.

Don't be making faces at me. I can see you through this screen. I'm being honest, which I do so infrequently it may seem odd, I know.

They did a lot of good things. Played hard for the most part. Battled to the end. They won't lose this well all season. A very solid failure for early October.

Plus, Detroit didn't look all that imposing. You can see the Red Wings are more vulnerable. You can see where the Hawks can emerge on top of them before it's over.

The Hawks weren't outplayed as much as they were out-lucked, out-finessed, out-thought and out-finished. Those things will happen in a 82-game regular season.

Don't waste your vitriol. Save it for those long winter nights when some temper will keep you warm.

There are also going to be some downright ugly nights when it looks like all is lost. Those will be the tough defeats that raise doubts, but not this one.

And while I'm pursuing peace at all costs, let me clear up any misconceptions that I have been a little too hard on goalie Cristobal Huet. My goodness, where could you have gotten that idea?

This is no time to create a goalie controversy. While Andy Niemi looks like a fine backup, he will most likely require time to develop in the NHL as a steady presence. The Finn is still an unfinished product.

Coach Joel Quenneville has to stick with Huet and has to let the goalie know that. Huet, by my estimation, is probably quite mentally fragile right now. And has been for some time. He needs some Ed Belfour craziness and some Dominik Hasek goofiness. Relax, Cris, develop your own personality. Be somebody other than that forlorn face you show the world.

He must be assured the starting job is in his hands. Don't drop it. It's yours, Cris, and a 1-1-1 record isn't going to change that fact. Be proactive, not reactive. Cop an attitude. Get mad. Be happy. Do something.

Belfour always wanted to kick Jeff Hackett's ass when Hackett was his backup. Huet may have benefitted from that kind of motivation.

Everybody talked about how Huet would be better without looking over his shoulder at when Nikolai Khabibulin would replace him in net. That still makes no sense to me since we are all here because it's an intense competition, playing and watching. Beating all comers is what it's about.

But, OK, if that's true, Khabby is safely hidden in Edmonton, and you really couldn't pick a better place to go if he want to disappear. Just ask Dany Heatley, who is getting a lot more sunny exposure in San Jose and loving it when he could have been an oblique Oiler.

So there are no excuses for Huet. He has to be sent back into the net Saturday in Chicago's home opener against Colorado and told to go after it once again. The only way that Huet will find a groove is to be put into harm's way again and again and again until he plays 60 or 65 games and toughens up mentally and physically.

Niemi won't bail him out. Quenneville shouldn't bail him out. Huet has to get that into his head. Your season to win or lose. Man up.

The defense has to tighten up around him. Duncan Keith particularly has to show us how badly he wants to play for Team Canada in the Olympics by returning to the high standards of play he showed last season.

The team has to feed off the energy produced Thursday in Joe Louis Arena by Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg, the same flow that Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien and others exuded against Florida.

The Hawks have to follow Jonathan Toews' placid, plodding work ethic and simply keep on keeping on, not allowing any mental blocks to develop when it comes to the Red Wings.

Hawks players fended off media questions after the loss about how much of a gap there is between them and Detroit, saying there is none. Right answer, even if Detroit is now a dominating 10-4-2 against Chicago since January, 2008, and goalie Chris Osgood is a staggering 17-3-2 against the Hawks since March 27, 2004.

But the Hawks have to really believe down deep there is no credibility gap.

Privately, they may have some doubts. In their quiet moments, the Red Wings have taken up unwanted residence in their heads and likely driven some Hawks to a quiet desperation.

How do we shake these guys? It's like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and those guys had to jump off a cliff to escape. The Hawks can't afford that with their injury list too crowded already.

You stand up to them by not giving them too much credit. Injuries have depleted the Hawks and that hasn't stopped them from looking pretty good in three games so far. Look on the bright side. They will be stronger. They will be better.

So come out Saturday night and keep on keeping on this way and you should win with Huet as one of the three stars of the game.

Peace and love, brothers. I'll be checking the mail for my Nobel Prize.



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FearlessFreep said:


Right on Mike - really a tough second period did the Hawks in, and it took one fluke goal, a johnny-on-the-spot/roof shot and trickling goal to do it. Huet didn't look bad...he just didn't look outstanding, and what goaltender looks outstanding night in and night out? Yes, I'm anxiously (sort of) waiting for Huet to have a great night in net against a tough opponent, and then I think we'll see him play better. Defense has to pick it up too.

One other thing to consider - had the Hawks been able to cash in on that 5 on 3 PP, the whole tone of the game changes. Credit Osgood on a great performance, but the PP unit has to take advantage of that situation.

Not down about this game at bit. Your vote is in the mail to Oslo.

Dave Morris said:


Gosh, all this peace and love. And me thinking hockey was 'War On Ice'.

Mike, we all know The Count of Monte Cristobal is a good goalie. Hey, he's even a very good goalie. And sometimes he can be a real good goalie. And he's even shown on occasion he's an outstanding goalie.

But when 'sometimes' has to become 'all the time', that's where the rubber meets the road...or the blade meets the ice...or, to use a metaphor more relevant to you and I, where the olive meets the martini.

If the Blackhawks played with the machine-like efficiency of The Motor City Mob, it would be different. As the Winged Wheels show game after game, shameless opportunism, clogging shooting lanes and crashing the opposition's crease are the credo. Keep your 'tender from being tenderized. Get into the other team's head. That's the psychological warfare the Wings learned from their Soviet counterparts. Professor Larionov and company brought that over from Clubs KGB and GRU.

It's not just about Cristo, y'see. It's the whole Hawkey Flock. McD's been so busy marketing them as Happy Meals he's forgotten that the players need to be as ruthless as his boss Rocky, when it comes to on-ice decisions.

Q can tell 'em "5 on 3, ya gotta score on the frikkin' 5 on 3" until his mustache falls off. Scotty can pop all the blood vessels he wants. Stan can be unflappable in his countenance.

But until the boys learn to knock the other team down and skate them into the ice while filling the basket with biscuits, we'll see games like this slip away.

Forget this peace and love stuff. The only love the Hawks have to learn, is for surgically dissecting the opposition. And the only piece work they need to concern themselves with, is dismantling their foes with extreme prejudice.

And, as you say, it starts with the man twixt the twine. Cristo has to stop quoting Descartes, and start sending enemy shooters to the gullotine. Robespierre, that great French hockey coach, is therefore recommended reading for The H-Man.

Otherwise, it's his head on the block. And enter, The Nieminator.

Et voila, Monsieur Huet. C'est tout.

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