After a miserable game against Dallas, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville put his goalie on notice that his poor play wasn’t good enough, especially with Antti Niemi playing well behind him. Cristobal Huet’s coach wasn’t the only person questioning his abilities; it seemed that all 20,000 fans in their seats wanted to tell Huet how well he was playing.
Maybe some healthy competition is doing the Blackhawks some good.
In his last two starts, Huet has stopped 47 of the 48 shots he’s faced and has picked up two much-needed wins against teams the Blackhawks needed to beat.
Both Nashville and Minnesota came to the United Center playing bad hockey, and neither improved their standing against the Hawks. Despite Chicago being without two of their better players, captain Jonathan Toews and defender Brent Seabrook, the Hawks were able to play sound defense in front of Huet and generate enough offense to win both games.
Monday night’s game was impressive on a number of fronts, one of which was not the Hawks’ composure. The Blackhawks drew seven penalties in the game, many of which were easily avoidable.
The dumbest penalty of the night was drawn by Cam Barker in the third period, who’s play continues to confuse and frustrate fans. At 14:54 in the third, Benoit Pouliot was hit with a penalty. After play was stopped, though, Barker took a shot at Pouliot and was called for a worthless interference penalty. The Hawks and Wild would skate four-on-four instead of having an advantage. It was Barker’s second penalty of the night.
Despite the Hawks taking so many penalties, there was a lot to take away from this game that was positive. Troy Brouwer scored his third goal of the season on a Hawks power play in the first to extend the Hawks to a 2-0 lead on a great put back off a shot by Tomas Kopecky.
Brouwer isn’t the cover boy that Toews, Patrick Kane, Brian Campbell or Kris Versteeg have become, but his play early this season has been exceptional. In every part of the game, Brouwer has been a solid player, and his stats are starting to reflect hs abilities.
The first goal of the night was scored by Dave Bolland, and the third was a ridiculous shot by Patrick Kane. Kane circled out from behind the net and found a gap about the size of a postcard in the top left corner of the net.
Another great effort was from the Hawks penalty killing units. The Hawks killed six penalties on Monday night, and received solid contributions from the entire active roster on the kill.
The defense was a strong theme throughout the final two periods of the game for the Blackhawks. The Wild were credited with 11 shots in the first, and only ten in the final two periods. Niklas Hjalmarsson had an especially solid game, covering Campbell’s tail on a couple occassions after he got worked by a couple Wild.
One of the Wild players that made a number of solid moves early in the game to avoid a pressing Hawks defender was returning favorite son, Martin Havlat. Havlat was a non-factor in the game, ending up at -2 on the night and only getting one shot on net.
But the win circles back to the goal, where Huet again played like the guy the Hawks gave a $5.6 million salary to before last season. Even though the two wins have come at the expense of two of the worst teams in the NHL, it doesn’t take away from the numbers.
In his post game interviews, Huet appeared to be more confident in himself and Quenneville appeared to be happy as well.