The blackhawks finished their season high 8 game road trip with a disappointing loss to Carolina 4-2, despite outshooting the Canes 41-24.
It has become a common refrain this season, at least when the hawks lose - they outplay & outshoot their opponent, often by a wide margin, yet still manage to lose.
That ironic and all too frequent statistic ultimately draws attention to goaltending, not just the hot goaltenders the hawks sometimes run into, but their own netminding.
Christobal Huet got off to a rough start this season despite being the clear #1 after Khabiboulin's departure. He managed to be on the losing end in the opener in Finland, while the hawks outshot Florida 55-24.
He lost again in his second start in Detroit 3-2, where the hawks again outshot their opponents, 34-23.
And though he managed to finally beat Colorado after a 9 round shootout, his save percentage was still well below .900 for the 3rd straight game.
That was followed by giving up 3 goals to Calgary on 5 shots & getting pulled - a game which the hawks eventually trailed 5-0, but went on to win 6-5 in OT, outshooting Calgary 39-20.
He rebounded in his next start to beat Nashville 3-1, but followed them up with a bad game against Dallas, where he allowed two bad goals in a 4-2 loss, while the hawks outshot their opponents again, 32-25.
He managed to pick up his game after that, winning 7 starts in a row from Nov. 9 to 25, and played perhaps his best goal in two games the hawks lost - first to Anaheim where he stopped 31 of 34 shots in a 3-0 loss, and then stopping 21 of 22 the next day in LA in a 2-1 SO loss. He played another strong game a couple of weeks later in another low-scoring 2-1 loss to Buffalo, stopping 31 of 33 shots.
He followed that up with back to back 3-0 shutouts at home vs. division rivals St. Louis & Detroit, and finally looked like he had put the shaky goaltending behind him.
Then came a 3-2 loss at home to San Jose, where the hawks outshot the sharks 47-14, where the guy at the opposite end, Nabakov, shone while Huet struggled. He rebounded with a strong performance in Nashville, stopping 25 of 26 shots in a 4-1 win, but got yanked for the 2nd time this season, giving up 4 goals on ten shots in Dallas, in a game the hawks finally lost 6-5.
Huet rebounded yet again with 3 straight wins, putting in solid performances against Marty Brodeur & NJ, St. Louis & Minnesota. In his next start, this time in Minneapolis, the hawks staked him to a 5-1 lead well into the 3rd period. The wild nevertheless came back to win 6-5 in a SO, scoring 4 goals on 9 shots in the 3rd.
He rebounded again, shutting out Columbus 3-0 at home, but gave up 5 goals in the 2nd half of the home & home vs. Columbus on only 26 shots, tho the hawks offense bailed him out to win 6-5.
That was followed with a 4-1 loss in Ottawa, making only 14 saves. He came in relief of Niemi for the first time in Vancouver, giving up 2 goals in 14 shots in the last two periods of a 5-1 loss, and then rebounded against Edmonton & San Jose before the disappointing Carolina game.
Huet ranks tied for 9th with Kiprusoff in wins with 24, and tied for 7th with Luongo in GAA at 2.31, but ranks 31st in the league as of this writing in save percentage at .903.
Those stats clearly show that Huet's ranking in wins & GAA is directly attributable to the hawks puck possession game and minimizing the shots against - in fact, the hawks have allowed the fewest shots against in the entire league (100 fewer than the next team, Philadelphia) while ranking 1st in shots for (& 8th in shooting percentage).
His inconsistent performances are sure to cause hawk brass, coaches & teammates more than a few anxious moments as playoff time approaches. Niemi has been the better of the two, but is still a rookie and largely unproven.
Given the hawks cap situation and the likelihood that they will have to move several contracts in the offseason for little or no money in return (if they don't move them by the deadline), it appears this season may represent this team's best shot at a cup & they may be forced to go with relative weakness at the most pivotal position on the team.