There is no more Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy, or Curtis Joseph. Martin Brodeur is still a pretty good goaltender, but the era of great goalies in the NHL seems to be slowly diminishing. Despite this overall trend, there is definitely someone out there better than Chicago netminder Cristobal Huet.
Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks' backup, may become the starter more if Huet continues to struggle. Huet was pulled against Calgary last Monday after allowing three goals in under a minute. He allowed only one goal at Nashville, but the Predators had just 13 shots on net.
Then Saturday came, and Huet's troubles showed again and the Hawks fans responded with a chorus of boos at the United Center. There were some bad goals scored by Dallas, as the game-winner came on a dump-in that bounced a couple times off the boards and over the arms of a startled Huet. Now, that was a pretty bad bounce, but you cannot let a goal in like that.
I knew Huet wasn't as good as Nikolai Khabibulin, and there were some concerns when the "Bulin Wall" left for Edmonton. Yet, Huet was marvelous in the season-ending loss at Detroit in last year's postseason, and he looked pretty solid in the regular season. Still, there was a reason Huet didn't play in the playoffs until Khabibulin got hurt. He was not as good as the starter, and it is not like Khabi is the greatest goalie in the world.
Chicago will be near the top of the NHL in goals scored, but in the end, a solid goaltender is needed to win the Stanley Cup. Niemi may get more playing time, but he has yet to prove himself and may have some inconsistencies as well. We will see what happens the rest of the season, which continues this Wednesday when the Hawks host Vancouver.
This is definitely a title contender, and the only thing standing in the Blackhawks way is a good goalie. Unfortunately, this is a pretty big barrier to overcome.