Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville announced after practice on Friday that Cristobal Huet will start in net for Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators.
This news turns up the heat on an already simmering debate: where do Chicago’s goalies stand with their coach?
Antti Niemi took his first loss of the season on Wednesday night against Vancouver in a game that was poorly played by the Blackhawks and saw two of the Hawks best players, Brent Seabrook and Captain Jonathan Toews, finish the game off the ice.
Niemi was spectacular throughout most of the game, but gave up a cheap goal after a Brian Campbell/Patrick Kane turnover that ended up being the difference in the contest. He ended up keeping 28 of 31 shots out of the net.
Now Huet gets another shot between the pipes, his first try since a miserable effort against Dallas a week ago. The fan base at the United Center is now completely in Niemi’s corner, and Quenneville must be asking questions after the last two performances. This might be the biggest start of Huet’s Blackhawks career.
Is starting Huet in net a bold move by Quenneville to stroke Huet’s diminished confidence, is the coach being stubborn in keeping to a regular rotation early in the season, or are finances driving playing time until Huet does enough wrong to merit a full change at the top of the depth chart?
I would have to say it’s all of the above in this reality, but going to the stone-cold Huet against Nashville might be the best remedy to his ills. The Predators are in last place in the division, with just seven points in nine contests. They’re 3-5-1 on the young season and have been outscored 31-18.
Nashville also comes to town at the perfect time for the Hawks. If Toews and Seabrook can’t go, two of the better defenders on the roster, the Predators are a great opponent to miss the two leaders against. They’re converting only nine percent of their power plays this year, by far the worst in the entire NHL.