If there was ever a time for the Blackhawks to ease up in the last period and assume a sure victory it was last night.
The Hawks had disposed of the Wild a few days ago at the United Center. So when they took a 5-1 advantage into the third frame it would have been human nature for them to figure the game was over and their win streak was extended to six straight.
But this is professional hockey and no team likes to be embarrassed especially on home ice.
Maybe the Hawks learned a valuable lesson as they hadn’t faltered before because of over confidence this season. Time will tell how they will respond but the Western Conference leaders blew a point and wound up with an embarrassing defeat.
The Hawks dominated play for forty minutes even though they didn’t register many shot attempts. Minnesota didn’t quit and they were helped by some Chicago defensive breakdowns and kept coming on strong. The Hawks needed a big save to keep the Wild from coming up with their fifth goal but the opposite happened.
Cristobal Huet couldn’t be faulted for some of the Wild goals but their fifth and most important tally should have been saved.
Huet looked unsure the entire game.
He appeared frozen in his crease a few times and wasn’t following the puck very well. Huet didn’t seem confident and when the Hawks took a 3-1 lead I thought they would still have to score again to win the game. When the Hawks led 5-1 it looked like Huet’s unsteadiness wouldn’t matter.
There is no need to overreact, although many will. It has been a story book like season for the Blackhawks thus far and it has been difficult to find faults.
But last night….
Niklas Backstrom was replaced in goal after the second period. Minnesota’s netminder didn’t look dialed in and it wasn’t a surprise to find Josh Harding between the pipes for the third period. Actually that move probably sealed the victory for the Wild.
When Minnesota scored their fourth goal Huet should have been replaced by Antti Niemi, if for no other reason than to just slow the game down and give the Hawks more time to regroup. Minnesota had just scored three times in 2:05 and head coach Joel Quenneville had already burned his timeout.
Possibly Quenneville hesitated because Niemi was going to be his choice for this evening’s game against the Ducks. Or maybe Q. didn’t want Huet to sit on a shaky effort for five days until he would have another start on Thursday night versus Columbus. Whatever the case might have been Q. has to get some of the blame for last night’s embarrassing defeat.
There was no real reason to leave Huet in the contest, plus the Hawks had already used their timeout. Every decision the Hawks head coach has made this season has been beyond reproach, but last night Quenneville made an error in judgement.
Huet would have been a passenger if the Hawks came away with two points. It would have been another game where there weren’t many shots against and his missteps would have been ignored. All of that has happened before but it wasn’t to be the case against the Wild.
This loss can’t be completely hung on Huet, the rest of his mates didn’t close the deal. But in my view Quenneville was as much to blame as anyone.
More important than the point which was squandered will be the response from the young Blackhawks. The Hawks face desperate teams in their next two games before taking off on a long road trip.
Last night’s blown lead could easily be chalked up to a costly learning experience. Or it could start an unforeseen slide for the Blackhawks.
The Hawks swept the Ducks aside last Sunday night at the United Center and now have to face them again. This time Anaheim will have two important players healthy and ready for action.
Teemu Selanne scored his first goal last night after missing 17 games with a broken hand. Ryan Getzlaf is also healthy now and he pitched in with a goal in last night’s 3-2 victory in Nashville. The Ducks have now won three games in a row but still have a lot of ground to make up in the Western Conference. They will be ready for revenge this evening.
The Blackhawks could have coasted to victory last night and rested players in the last period. That wasn’t the case and now they will have to reenergize for a tough battle tonight.
The Ducks shouldn’t have a problem with fatigue as they can’t afford to be tired.
Time will tell if last night’s third period collapse will become a learning experience or if it will lead to more difficult times.
It has been reported the Hawks had never before blown a four goal, third period lead and lost the game.
The four goal, third period comeback was the biggest in Wild franchise history.
For the most part it was a pitiful shootout display last night from both teams.
No one asked, and I am not sure why Marty Havlat didn’t participate in the eight round shootout.
Havlat isn’t the best in shootouts but he should have been one of the top six for the Wild, he would be for the Hawks.
Maybe Marty was hurt or maybe his coach was sending him some sort of message. Eventually the reason for his absence in the shootout will come out.
If there is another team as good as the Hawks at using their sticks in the neutral or defensive zone it is the Wild.
Guillaume Latendresse had another very good outing against Chicago. It looks like the Wild made a great deal when they acquired him from Montreal.
Jack Skille was recalled from Rockford on Sunday morning….
Probably someone suffered an injury or maybe Q. is sending a message.
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