After an emotional victory on Sunday at Detroit, the Blackhawks had started a rough road trip with four points in their first two games. Heading to Ottawa, the Hawks hoped to continue their momentum against a team that, on paper, wasn’t their equal.
Unfortunately, numbers on paper don’t win hockey games and, from the looks of the Hawks’ effort on Tuesday night, nobody told the players.
The 4-1 loss in Ottawa on Tuesday night wasn’t even a case of a hungry team on the fringe of the playoffs giving the best team in hockey their best; the Senators only put 18 shots on net in the game. But the Sens turned the puck over less than the Blackhawks, took fewer stupid penalties, and their netminder stopped over 80 percent of the shots he faced, the recipe to beat a lackluster effort from the Hawks.
Ottawa did a nice job of breaking up the Hawks cross-ice passing in the neutral zone and collapsed in front of the net well, so they do deserve credit for playing a good team game. They were also more physical than the Blackhawks, out-hitting Chicago 29-12 in the game. Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliot also deserves a great deal of credit, making a number of clutch saves in the second and third period in holding the second-ranked offense in the NHL to only one goal.
But Tuesday was more of a case of the Hawks losing a game than Ottawa winning one.
Cristobal Huet was bad in net. He didn’t receive a lot of help, but the Sens weren’t getting one-on-none chances. There wasn’t a single goal that went in that Huet couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have stopped. The only one of the four that was understandable was the fourth and final goal for Ottawa, scored by Carrie Underwood’s fiancee Mike Fisher on the power play off a great pass from Nick Foligno. That goal went directly between Huet’s legs, though; unlike the third goal, Huet actually got into position to make a stop.
Huet allowed four goals on 18 shots and he showed some emotion for the second straight game after allowing the fourth goal. On Saturday in Columbus, he broke his goalie stick against the post late in the game. After Fisher’s goal, he slammed the ice with both hands. Considering that Huet is a goalie who relies on his confidence, his last two starts being poor might have a major impact on the rest of the road trip.
After the game, when coach Joel Quenneville addressed the media, he certainly didn’t jump at any opportunities to give Huet a vote of confidence, either.
Not helping the cause were Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, both of whom took ridiculous penalties in the third period. Those two penalties, both taken while the Hawks trailed 3-1, effectively destroyed the Hawks’ ability to maintain an offensive rush. If not for a great pass from Duncan Keith to a streaking Marian Hossa, the Hawks would have been shut out by a netminder allowing over 2.80 goals per game on the season.
Hossa’s goal was his seventh in eight games. It was the only highlight for the Hawks, who only recorded three total shots on five power plays.