Blackhawks Confidential

Huet collapses and the Blackhawks unjustly fall, too, to Dallas 5-4

If Marian Hossa scores on a shorthanded breakaway chance off a Duncan Keith pass to start the third period and take the lead 5-4, I believe the Blackhawks win in Dallas Tuesday night.

Instead, Stars goalie Marty Turco made the save to stop Chicago from adding onto the momentum of a Patrick Kane goal with seconds left in the second period to tie the score 4-4 and Chicago fell short in this 5-4 loss, allowing a rare two power-play goals.

Of course, considering goalie Cristobal Huet tripped on his own skates moving right to set up to face the onrushing Mike Modano on a first-period Dallas power play--and permitted him an egregious goal--the penalty killing can't be faulted too much.

Goalies are not expected to skate like you and me. Luckily, he doesn't chew gum violently like Steve Larmer did when he had to play without smoking cigarettes. I'm not too sure he could without falling on his ass all the time.

We are going to hear a lot about Huet's poor performance since he gave up four goals off 10 shots before coach Joel Quenneville pulled him early in the second period for Andy Niemi, who did his best after that to put the Hawks in a position to rally. Andy was very handy again and some will renew the call for him to play more.

But the question is--should we over-react to Huet's stinker? Everyone has them. He can't be dissed more than the Versus studio analysts did to him. Keith Jones and Brian Engblom teamed up to call Huet a piece of shit, although they used nicer language.

"They don't play as if they have a weak goaltender," Jones said in complimenting the Hawks.

Ouch. All the Huet haters will be out in force. I'm in favor of cutting him a little slack, although Quenneville has a tough decision for New Year's Eve against New Jersey at United Center.

Does he try to piss off Huet by starting Niemi in this game against the Devils, toying with Huet's fragile psyche? Or does he try to motivate Huet by starting Niemi Thursday night and telling him he needs to get better right now or he will see a lot more bench time?

I think I'd start Niemi. But you can argue that one for the next day. Chime in with your take on that one.

The Hawks looked as if they would blow out the Stars in the first period with the help of a dominating power play and a 22-8 shot advantage. They were flying everywhere and people who care less about hockey would be converted overnight by their first-period energy.

But after Troy Brouwer's power-play goal set the tone 1-0, Modano and Mike Ribeiro combined to give the Stars a 2-1 lead that belied what we were seeing. How could the Hawks be skating so well and rewarded so little? Ribeiro's wraparound beat Huet's left pad at the post as he failed to cover the right side of the net.

Kane's first of two goals evened the score 2-2. When Ben Eager picked up a Dallas turnover in the Stars zone and found Kris Versteeg, who did what he does best and delivered a fancy pass to Colin Fraser for a goal and 3-2 lead, the Hawks still looked in control.

But the Hawks appeared in shock when Dallas started the second period with two quick goals. Loui Ericksson slipped a cheapie between Huet's legs and Huet was finished once a Dallas pass skipped off Brouwer's skate and past the unsettled Huet.

Nothing went right the rest of the second period until Kane wristed a shot off Turco's glove with 3.5 seconds to go, helped by Saint Johnny Toews hammering away at Turco at the crease and creating confusion.

Shortly after Hossa's shorthanded miss, Steve Ott beat slow-footed defenseman Brent Sopel to score the decisive goal in the third period. Niemi made some big saves after that to keep the Hawks' hopes alive. He was far superior to Huet.

Toews almost tied the score with a backhander right of the net, but it kissed post and the Hawks couldn't be bailed out by Saint Johnny this time. Even Toews showed a human side here, beaten by Brad Richards behind the net in the second period and allowing a Richards' pass to Eriksson for his goal.

I still think we have to be proud of the effort put in by the Hawks. They hadn't allowed five goals since erasing that 5-0 deficit in Chicago Oct. 12 before stunning Calgary with their historic 6-5 turnaround.

They weren't beaten as much as screwed, and that's going to happen in a long season of weird twists and turns.

The Hawks have allowed nine goals in the last two games. Niemi was in net for that 5-4 victory against Nashville that preceded this one. Are we seeing a lapse in the steel curtain defense? I don't think so.

I am concerned, however, that Hossa doesn't seem to be part of the action at even strength. Sure, he has 13 points, including 6 goals in his 17 games. Very respectable statistically.

But he is not being put in position to get solid scoring chances at even strength. Do we need to move John Madden up to the second line to center for Hossa? That sounds radical, since Madden is doing well on the third line, but center Dave Bolland's injury absence becomes increasingly glaring as Hossa struggles to find his niche on the team.

Patrick Sharp is a winger, not a center.

I think we all expected Huet would collapse sooner or later and have a bad game. Now it's a question of whether that turns into a terrible stretch of games.

As the Versus analysts were quick to point out, everyone wonders if Huet is going to be the bad Cris once the playoffs arrive. That again shows no one trusts Huet, not even those so-called experts.

Q will tell us something with whether he chooses to support Huet and start him against the Devils. For now, Huet is back in the spotlight and it's bound to give him an image burn once again.

But if you want to feel better about the future, just concentrate on Patrick Kane. This guy is vying for MVP of the NHL.

He's come a long way as a player in just a year's time. If the Hawks don't win a Stanley Cup with Kane, there is no justice in the world.

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22 Comments

FearlessFreep said:

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Yes, Jones and Engblom did their best to call out Huet - it's always entertaining to criticize a team that is otherwise doing so well. No doubt Huet had a stinker game, about as bad as his last game against the Stars (note to Coach Q: do not start Huet in net against Dallas anymore!).

The criticism leveled may have been harsh, but there is no denying that Huet does have a tendancy to go down faster than a two dollar whore in pressure situations. I'm not panicking, just observing and pointing this out.

That said, I think Marc Crawford's team deserves credit for executing the track meet mentality, and pulling it off. True, had Huet simply been as effective as a cardboard Skorro, the Hawks would likely have won this game. But Dallas did seem to have more jump throughout the game, and seemed to win a lot of the scrums as the contest wore on. As you pointed out Mike, if Hossa pots that breakaway, I think the Hawks win.

It's unfortunate that another fluke goal (the carom off of Brouwer's skate) had to come in a game that Huet played poorly...then again, Modano did get in untouched on the first goal, and Sopes did resemble a turnstile on Ott's game winner. That one really frosted me - Ott is a real penis.

I must reluctantly admit that once Huet was pulled, I felt like the Hawks goaltending was in somewhat better hands. I still believe Huet is a competent goaltender, but when he has an off night - whew, it sure is a stinker.

Does anyone see a parallel between Rex Grossman and Huet?

FearlessFreep said:

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Oh, and one more thing - this will certainly prepare the Hawks for the New Year's Eve showdown against NJ.

Keep the faith - this is still a great hockey team.

Mike Kiley said:

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Damn, Freep, going down faster than a two-dollar whore. Why couldn't I have thought of that? I might have to turn over the blog to such insightful methaporic, poetic observers such as you.

FearlessFreep said:

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Mr. Kiley, your euphemisms inspire mine. I'll leave the blog-crafting to you.

iplagitr said:

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Freep, your comments had me rolling!

Excellent recap, insight and viewpoints, Mike. I think you summed it up well with, "They weren't beaten as much as screwed, and that's going to happen in a long season..." The Hawks played a pretty strong game, but you can't win 'em all, and this night was just not to be for them. As Freep points out, some kudos go to the Stars. After being outplayed in the first, I thought they finished like a team that was very hungry to beat the the first-place Hawks. If the Hawks aren't the top team in the west, I'l bet the Stars don't skate as hard as they did.

The game-changer was definitely Hossa's missed short-handed attempt. His overall game is very solid, but it would be nice to see him start putting a few more of his chances in the net. I thought Versteeg had a strong return. The best he's looked in a while.

Either goalie will have their hands full with New Jersey. It will certainly be interesting to see who Q goes with. After this game, I'd love to see Niemi get the start.

Mike Kiley said:

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The problem I see is that Hossa is trying to do it by himself. He enters the zone fine even strength, but nothing gets exchanged back and forth. He needs help and it's not with his present linemates.

SDSTAN said:

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So are we going to give Huet another mulligan? (this looks similar to the Shark's game and very similar to the first game with the Stars at the UC ) Huet looked lost out there. The bottom line is that shaky goals like that turn the momentum and resulted in an immediate let-down for the Hawks in the second period. They work their asses off and the goalie lets in three horrible goals, even the fourth goal he over-reacted to the cross ice pass and was way out of position when it went in. I am not completely giving up hope for him but he needs to be more consistent and help his team out occasionally with a big save when there are turnovers. Niemi deserves the start Thursday.

Mike Kiley said:

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Great point on the "bad luck" goal off Brouwer. I was just explaining the same thing to my son, who unfortunately was blacked out by Versus rather than Heineken. Huet had swung completely to one side of the crease on the pass across and the left side of the net could have been wide enough for a semi to get through. He had the yips from the start, even with some of his early saves.

Dave Morris said:

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Gee whiz, nobody's talking about how the Hawks screwed themselves by allowing the Stars to steamroll them in the hitting department.

38-16, Gentlemen.

Maybe the Hawks thought they were playing flag football.

After getting beat by the Dudes from Dallas on the previous go-round, you'd think the HawkeyFlock would know better than to pat themselves on the back for getting by with a first period bombardment and a one goal lead to show for it.

But nope. This was a 'trap game', and the Blackhawks walked right into it.

Sure, Cristo was flatter than a crepe...but his buddies took a nap when the second period opened and just like that, two quick ones. Colin Fraser was left to offer the post game apologies to the men from WGNRadio: "We kinda went to sleep at the beginning of the second period, and you can't do that against a team like Dallas."

No kidding.

Coincidentally, both Ryan Miller and MarkyAndyFleury had their own stinker games last night...Miller getting the hook after three on ten, and Fleury giving up a three goal lead and getting buffaloed. Maybe there was some Twine Flu going around.

You win as a team, you lose as a team.

And when your goalie's having a bad night, you knock the other guys down and make 'em pay.

The Hawks' hitmen played like powderpuffs.

Yep, the Kaner did his thing, and there were those who kept the score close. But this was an undisciplined, sloppy effort against an opponent they should have beaten. It's not like Marty Turco was channelling Georges Vezina.

And yep, Andy was handy in relief, but he still got smoked by Swingin' Steve Ott from the slot on the losing goal.

So put a fork in this one, wrap it up, and toss it.

And they better get ready for Thursday night. Otherwise, the Devils will fork the Hawks.

FearlessFreep said:

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Yes Dave, the hitting was glaringly one-sided, and that is a great point.

I never get comfortable with predictions about hockey games, and expectations that Team A will defeat Team B because one is "better" than the other. The game still has to be played, and as you pointed out, Ryan Miller was relieved of his goaltending duties early as well - the guy who has been by far the best goaltender this year.

Every team has an "off" night, and winning means never letting up. I take comfort that the Hawks still only lost by a goal and played horrendously (and Dallas played very well). The Hawks have ten regulation defeats.

I'd really be curious to see how many of those games they came up short by a goal. Vancouver? Nashville? That's about it.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Huet sucked, there's no way to sugar coat that. This should be a game the team watches in the video room though. It seems to me the weak teams that beat the Hawks seem to simplify their game and just keep pounding the weakness because they just don't have enough talent to match up. The trap is a problem for the Hawks, but so is putting more pressure on the D as they try to get the puck out of the defensive zone. They probably won't see a pure trap in the playoffs, but the defense is going to get squeezed a lot more and they need to know how to deal with that.

When games start to get out of hand like last night, I feel like the Hawks lose the ability to stay focused and play their game of strong puck control. Frequently in the second and third, I thought they were bunched up a lot deep in the zone and would get only one shot off before getting pushed out of the zone. That they came back and put up four goals showed me they clearly had more talent than Dallas out there.

For perspective sake, the Canes absolutely whipped the Caps the other night. Games like this happen. Still, in the Hawks case, there seems to be some familiar themes when they lose to weaker teams. Huet having bad games is part of that, but so usually is trap, pressure on the D and rag dolling guys like Campbell. When the Hawks have to switch into run and gun mode to try and catch up, they can be explosive, but then then they also give up goals to guys like Ott. Games like last night should be something they should use to tighten up rather then forget and move on from. If nothing else, the weak teams point out where they still have work to do.

fattybeef said:

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Ill say that two of those goals Huet should have done better on for sure. The 4th was just bad luck. I like the Rex Grossman comparison. Sexy Rexy did get the bears to a superbowl... Kind of...

Im still not retracting any of my arguments made previously in support for Huet (except the hall comparision, that was just stupid but it was one of those days in the office where irrational thought just made sense) but I will agree that Neimi deserves more playing time. He's earned it. I dont think we should throw the frog under the bus yet but theres nothing wrong with a little cage rattling.

Dave Bolland is sorely missed. However they dont have a better option so he will have to do the next month and a half. Hossa was spoiled playing with Datsyuk (maybe the only guy whose a better passer than Kane) and needs to adjust to being the best player on the line.

The Dallas forecheck was very good yesterday. They pressured the hawks defenders, didnt let them keep the puck very easily and the gamble paid off.

*And I think they will see a trap in the playoffs against a full strength Detroit, Nashville or the Sharks. Thats been a proven way to get to the hawks as of late. Hasnt won every game but you get dejavous all over again drawing iron and missing break aways and youll see a lot of 4-5, 6-4, hockey games that can go either way.

Kopecky had some real real real dumb penalties that didnt help the situation. You want to talk about someone having a bad year there you go. That line looks much better with Bickle or Hendry.

GG said:

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No way our Blackhawks hoist the Cup with Cristobal Huet as our #1 goalie.
Absolutely NO WAY !!!!!!!

FearlessFreep said:

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Let's not even begin talking about Stanley Cups right now. Too early for that.

fattybeef said:

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I think Ed Belfour is still looking for work in the NHL...

FearlessFreep said:

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Ed Belfour is the goaltending consultant for the Blues.

Dave Morris said:

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People can talk about Huey's bad game all they want, but *all* goalies have bad games.

Maybe those people talking about Cristo's crummy night can also explain why the Hawks got 26 shots and three goals in the first period, and FIVE freaking shots in the second...and couldn't score even one in the third.

And this is the same team that came back from a 5-0 deficit against the Flames?

The Hawks have had great goaltending most of this year...but on nights like last night, when their pipe patroller is having acid reflux, the rest of them have to suck it up.

Especially against a team as defensively vulnerable as Dallas...and a beatable goalie like Turco.

That's it. No cake and ice cream for the boys. Except Mr. Kane.

As for hoisting the Cup, don't even think about it. Not until April. There's too much hockey to play. And no Goalie Angel who swoops in and makes it all better.

FearlessFreep said:

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Agreed.

But sheesh, my eyes were bleeding with that performance last night.

iplagitr said:

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A little off the subject, I thought we could take some time away from goalie-sparring to feel good about something: Tallon and co's selection of Patrick Kane in 2007. That was a year when there was supposedly no real "standout" player available in the draft (at least not like Ovechkin or Crosby in 04-05). But let's take a look at Kane's regular season stats compared to the other top 10 players selected in '07 (8 of these players are forwards). It's amazing. Stats are: GP / G / A / P / +/- I hope I copied everything correctly (and if I haven't, you get the picture anyway!).

1. Patrick Kane: 201 / 63 / 123 / 186 / +6
2. James van Riemsdyk: 35 / 7 /13 /20 +2
3. Kyle Turris (the #1 prospect by many scouts): 66 / 8 / 13 / 21 / -20
4. Thomas Hickey - no NHL games
5. Karl Alzner (D): 41 / 1 / 8 / 9 / -1
6. Sam Gagner: 193 / 37 / 74 / 111 / -29
7. Jakub Voracek: 121 / 17 / 44 / 61 / +2
8. Zach Hamill - No NHL games
9. Logan Couture: 11 / 1 / 1 / 2 / -2
10. Keaton Ellerby (D) - No NHL games

Obviously, some of these guys are still maturing in the system, but hey, I think Tallon made the right choice! Sam Gagner is the only one who even slightly approaches Kane's numbers - until you look at his +/-....

And the scary thing is, Kane's only getting better....

SDSTAN said:

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All goalies have bad games for sure, but can anyone remember Huet "stealing" a game for the Hawks when they weren't at their best? I sure can't. I can think of at least two games that Niemi stole with his play: Pitt and Vancouver on the road. Most of Huet's wins have been due to exceptional team defense rather than exceptional net-minding. I know Niemi's resume is still in its infant stage, but watching "bad Huet" is maddening.

Hostile Hawk said:

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Thank you SDSTAN, you said it. I really am for leaving this debate for the end of the season since Niemi is getting more ice time and I am sure he will rise up as the better man. Though I am still unsure about him in the playoffs, considering his lack of experience. But sometimes no experience is better than bad experience. Sure, Huet has played in the playoffs, but he has not won a series in two first round appearances.
There has been no game won because of Huet's play (except one, but I can't remember which one) and this is far from his only completely poor performance. In the last post, someone asked for mistakes by Huet before we begin criticizing him, well here it is. Plus his last game against the Sharks, plus his game against Calgary, plus his horrible start to the season and there are many more, but my memory sucks so I digress. There have only been about three games that I can clearly remember as games were I was happy with his performance, the rest was just good defense allowing few shots that had no quality on them. As I mentioned in the last post, Eddie O' will constantly be heard building up Niemi's abilities, and rarely heard paying any respect to Huet's. Plus that last goal on Huet last night, though not completely his fault was due in part to his over zealous slide to the far side. Ultimately, I feel bad for the guy, however he does get payed extremely well and I am really tired of hearing about confidence issues, because that would be reason enough to not play him in the playoffs.
Although it is early to talk about playoffs, every game played for this young team is a lesson to be used in the future. They are building themselves up now for that time and no matter how good they are playing now, if they can not produce in the playoffs, then this season is unsuccessful. I hate to say it, but it is the truth. There will be a tremendous amount of pressure on these guys when that time comes, and games like this help build character.
Totally agree on everything said about Hossa, but he is new to this team and coming off a long recovery from an injury. As long as he has found his place by the playoffs, I am a happy Hawks fan.

Not enough can be said about how amazing it is to watch a guy like Kane come to maturity in this league. He gets better every game in such obvious ways and I commend him on his commitment to this. Probably not his best game in the past week, but he still notched two goals and almost assisted on a possible game winner. 7 goals in 5 games, SWEET!

Oh, and props on the great game recap Mike.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Wanted to post further up, but the reply button doesn't always work for me for some reason. Anyhow, I'm not sure the Hawks will see a full trap where teams just fall back to clog either the middle or stack up at the blue line. Teams without much depth may do that, but the better teams are not going to give them that much room and are going to constantly press. When the Hawks D is allowed to make insanely long passes from behind the goal to center ice, they look ridiculously good and dominant. When guys like Seabrook start to get squeezed (and Keith for that matter), they are not infallible to turnovers and ugly turnovers at that.

The goalie situation is what it is. Some people want Huet gone or demoted, and they, like people in hell who want ice water, are not going to get what they want. I'm okay with Huet, so I focus on other things like on how on a tenth place team was able to come back after one period, make adjustments and shut the Hawks down. 21 SOG to 5 to 11 makes me think the Stars and their coach solved a lot a more than Huet. Much as that games reinforces the argument we're doomed with Huet, it shows he's not the only weakness on an insanely talented team.

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