Detroit 5, Chicago 4: Huet’s collapse fuels Red Wings victory
Forget about my thoughts on whether the Red Wings may be entering a time of diminishing returns as their stars get older; I still think the hypothesis is relevant, just not applicable on this day.
No, today we witnessed the other story of the day come to fruition. A strong performance by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period was wasted when Cristobal Huet turned into a sieve -- once again -- in net as a 2-0 lead instantly dissolved a 4-2 deficit in the space of six minutes and fifteen seconds in the second period.
Now was it all on Huet? Not necessarily. Chicago appeared to cruise into the second period with a two-goal lead and the Red Wings were much more engaged coming out form the second intermission. Add in some questionable defense and even worse goaltending and you have a disaster of a period.
Yet of course, the story of the game will surround the play of Cristobal Huet. The team decided that they would stake their postseason success on the tandem of Antti Niemi and Huet, and today was the prime example of the mistake they made. There’s no way after a performance like today that either the team or the fans can honestly feel certain that having a stellar defensive corps alone can cover up for questionable goaltending.
Huet actually started off the game playing well, stopping all nine shots he faced in the first period. But with the Red Wings on the power play, he either lost track of the puck or didn’t feel the need to transition like he should have, and left the right side of the net wide open for Brian Rafalski’s goal.
It was downhill from there.
So where do the Blackhawks from here? Huet has allowed nine goals in his past three games -- not entirely bad but when you consider he has just a .804 save percentage in those three games you realize how much he’s struggled since the Hawks made the decision to ride with him for the remainder of the season.
It’s obvious that Chicago will need to turn to Antti Niemi now and perhaps for the playoffs as well. Can they go with a tandem this late in the season? It’s generally not something you’d expect a Stanley Cup contender to do, and they’ll need to make a decision in one direction or the other.
It’s obvious that Huet is not the answer, and this was not just one bad game. If the Chicago Blackhawks plan on playing for a Stanley Cup championship in June, they’ll have to do it in spite of their goaltending. The biggest blunder of the trade deadline? We shall see in about six weeks or so when the playoffs begin.Video: all 9 of this afternoon’s goals.