Blackhawks Notes: Niemi gives credit to Huet

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Blackhawks Notes: Niemi gives credit to Huet

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
6:28 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA In the excitement of a nail-biting third period and the euphoria of their Chicago Blackhawks two-game lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, Hawks fans can be excused if they missed a touching moment immediately after the game.

Chris Pronger stole the game puck, Ben Eager barked at him...

No, no, not that postgame moment. It was the sight of Cristobal Huet sprinting off the bench to congratulate his understudy, Antti Niemi, on the stirring win.

In all the wrasslin, title beltin, BHTVing antics surrounding these young and exciting Blackhawks, the camaraderie and love in the dressing room is too easily overlooked.

Between the teams two goaliesthemselves members of the most unique, pressure-packed and odd fraternity in all of sportsthe bond runs deeper, a brotherhood more than most.

Everywhere Ive been, Ive had a good relationship with the other goalie on the roster, Huet said after the Blackhawks morning skate on Wednesday. Goalies speak the same tongue; Antti speaks the same language as me.

Huet was displaced as Chicagos starter prior to the Olympic break and could never seize the job back from Niemi. Ironically, the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Flyers at Wachovia Center on March 13 was his last strong start for Chicago. Huet stopped 31 shots and was betrayed by defensive breakdowns late, particularly on a horrid goal by Pronger with less than three seconds left to win in which Brent Seabrook left the blue line backdoor wide open.

Huet made only one more start, and has just two appearances, since.

I havent played great in the net this season, Huet said with typical candor. The way hes played, what hes done this season, makes me feel better.

For his part, Niemi credits Huet for helping him more than any other Blackhawk aside from goaltending coach Stephane Waite, and perhaps coach Joel Quenneville for having faith in him in the first place.

Huey has been like a teacher to me, Niemi says. I cant even list everything he has done for me.

Niemi, who with 14 wins against just four losses is the winningest goaltender in Blackhawks postseason history, earns respect from Huet for one reason thats almost too simple to mention: a short memory.

He shrugs everything off, remains the same, game after game, the veteran said. Hes remarkable in that way.

Niemi doesnt deny it. Perhaps thats why I am doing so well in my first postseason. When you are just starting out, you maybe dont know what youre supposed to be scared of, or about the pressure of playoffs. My focus is more narrow because Im unaware of these extra pressures.

Tallon at Finals
Dale Tallon will be in the house for Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. Count Blackhawks center Dave Bolland as one Blackhawk who was amped to see the architect of this Blackhawks teamnow GM of the Florida Panthers.

It will be great to see him, Bolland said with uncommon elucidation and excitement.

Steeger Bits
One of the Blackhawks most excitable and entertaining skaters, forward Kris Versteeg, weighed in on the Pronger Puckgate on Wednesday.

I have no idea what he was doing with the pucks, he said, with his Dennis the Menace grin. Maybe its just something he does.

The Soupy Treatment
Is Blackhawks forward and Game 2 hero Eager worried that hell have boos rain down on him every time he touches the puck, like defenseman Brian Campbell did in San Jose from the puzzlingly embittered Sharks fans?

Nah, scoffed the wannabe lumberjack. I dont touch the puck that much. If Philly fans wait for possession to boo me, they wont get their moneys worth.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com'sBlackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter forup-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews set up the game-winning goal to Brad Marchand as Team Canada rallied back to beat Europe, 2-1, to complete the two-game sweep in the final at the World Cup of Hockey.

After Patrice Bergeron tied the game with a tip-in on the power play late in the third period, Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping, giving Europe a power play for a chance to respond.

But midway through the man advantage, the Blackhawks captain retrieved the puck and carried it into Europe territory before dropping it off to Marchand, who snapped home the shorthanded game-winner with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.

It was the second goal in a span of 2:09, helping Canada capture their second straight World Cup title (2004).

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament after scoring four goals and seven assists in six games. 

Toews was fourth among all players in the tournament with five points (three goals and two assists).

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.

“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”

The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.

During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.

If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.

But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.

“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.

“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”

BRIEFLY

- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."

- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice

- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”