It just might not be Cristobal Huet’s year.
Huet played a mostly solid 60 minutes, but the Blackhawks in front of him didn’t exactly batten down the hatches in the closing minutes of a tight affair, as they fell to the Flyers, 3-2.
The theme all week at practice has been about tightening up on defense so it wouldn’t matter who Joel Quenneville picked as his playoff goaltender.
“We know we have enough talent in that room to score goals, from the back end up,” Andrew Ladd said on Thursday. “Not bearing down, really, has turned into a lot of goals against. It’s something we have to figure out and make a point of being really strong there.”
Those words seem eerie considering the closing minutes of Saturday’s game.
Both the tying and winning goals came in the final 2:04 of action and both sequences started deep in Philadelphia territory. Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton earned his first point of the season, setting up Kimmo Timonen with the puck before his long pass found Scott Hartnell at the Hawks blue line. Hartnell got position on defensemen Brent Sopel before richoting one off the post, and in the net, to the short side of Huet. An inch the other way and the puck goes wide. How Hartnell got such good position with just a couple minutes remaining, and the Hawks leading 2-1, is a question only Sopel can answer.
The heartbreaker came with just seconds to go in regulation. The Flyers came out of their zone with speed and the puck turning a simple break-out into a four on two. Claude Giroux entered the Hawks zone and found Chris Pronger, at the far post, for a tap in at 19:57, and what looked to be a two point day minutes earlier evaporated completely.
With both sequences beginning with the Flyers needing the length of the ice to get to Huet, it’s not hard to picture Quenneville looking over the tape and finding several moments where the plays could have been derailed. This would have been a perfect spot for the Hawks to “tighten up”, as Ladd indicated. It didn’t happen and Huet turned into the tough luck loser.
His battle with Antti Niemi for starting playoff goaltender may be winding down and while this game probably didn’t hurt his cause too much, it certainly didn’t help. With Niemi as the supposed front-runner, Huet is going to need some big moments in his final starts of the regular season—and some help in front of him.
He didn’t get enough on Saturday.