Blackhawks Notes: Niemi gives credit to Huet

98789.jpg

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.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks battle Wild on CSN; UIC hosts Green Bay on CSN+

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks battle Wild on CSN; UIC hosts Green Bay on CSN+

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Tuesday on CSN+: UIC hosts Green Bay

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls trade Jimmy Butler?

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Patience and perseverance: trying to make, and stay in, the NHL

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Big Ten poll update: Purdue is conference's highest-ranked team as Wisconsin tumbles

Evanston more prepared to make a deep playoff run this March