Just a quick note here. Anttii Niemi will get the start in Calgary tomorrow night, and for the first time Coach Q has pretty much admitted it's due to performance. While some of us would like to see Huet get the chance to fight his way out of his recent skid, I can't argue with Q here. Niemi is on a roll, and the Hawks haven't yet reached a point where points aren't vital (probably should have found a synonym for points in there somewhere. Ah well). And frankly, Huet getting a fair share of down time will only help later in the year, as he's never had to shoulder a major workload. Looks like he won't this season either.
But that doesn't mean someone isn't hitting the Air Raid Siren. Professional Bull-horn Jeremy Roenick was on whatever waste of time ESPN 1000 trots out in the morning, and I'll just give you his quote: "Their youth, their enthusiasm, the only thing that everybody says, and I'm going to have to agree with them, is the goaltending situation. Can Huet bring them 16 games (in the playoffs)? I say no, I think he can probably get you through two rounds," Roenick said. "To go 16 games, you need a goaltender that is going to stand on his head and is going to steal games."
Maybe this is why JR never won a Cup. It used to be your goalie got you out of your division in the playoffs, back when that consisted of the first two rounds. The Conference make up doesn't work that way any more. As far as JR's contention that your goalie needs to stand on his head and steal games to win the Cup, that's pure bullshit. Let me go back into the closet here and pull out Marc-Andre Fleury's numbers from last posteason: 2.61 GAA with a .908 SV%. Chris Osgood's playoff numbers from the previous two seasons are impressive, but how many are going to place the credit for the WIngs consecutive Finals appearances on Osgood solely? Any of you who wish to are welcome to our Bug Juice.
I feel like I might throw up in my mouth the next time I say this, but gone are the days when a goalie wins you the Cup by himself. I'm sure he still can with a virtuoso performance, but even those require more. Furthermore, the Hawks reached the Conference finals last year with a goalie who, aside from a couple periods, was the very definition of mediocre. 2.98 GAA and a SV% below .900. That's just not very good. Through extrapolation you can figure out where this much improved Hawks team could go with a goalie who's barely scratching good, something Huet's numbers are far beyond right now. Right, enough of this.
-Anyway, Sassone begins to wonder what the Hawks might do at the deadline, and not for the last time have we heard the name of Scott Niedermayer. Whereas I've gotten of the Kovalchuk train (he would take just too much for something the Hawks don't really need more of) I'm all for this. I know his numbers are ugly this year, but a lot of that can be pinned on some shoddy goaltending and no other Ducks D-man being worth a shit (yes I've just insulted the rightful descendant of Poseidon James Wisniewski, and I'll probably be stricken with rickets or something. Bite me). The Hawks are one injury away from being awfully thin on the blue line, and given a 3rd pairing role and reduced minutes an aged Nieds could still be a force. Plus he could take some PP time as well.
If Cam Barker is going to be this disaster in his own zone and not used on the PP at all, then I don't know what he's here for, and should be moved while some others around the league still value him (which is #3 draft pick status will ensure that they do, as well as game tape of last year's series vs. the Flames). It will take more than Barker to land Niedermayer, and I don't even know if the Ducks would be interested in having yet another struggling d-man who's a bit expensive. But we know they covet big bodies, you'd have to think Buff would be up their alley. Before you cry about chemistry and fucking up finely-tuned machine, ask yourself how much Buff contributes to it and the logjam that's coming when Bolland and Burish return. When Fabulous Weapon is back, can you really split up Daydream Nation from Troy Brouwer, who has flourished there? Wouldn't that put Sharp on one of Bolland's wings with Hossa on the other? That leaves Versteeg, Buff, Madden, and Ladd vying for the three spots on the checking line, and we know Madden centers that. Ladd might be the most suited to be on a checking line on the Hawks. So it comes to a question of Versteeg v. Buff. Neither one would seem suited for a 3rd line role, but neither have hurt the Hawks there yet either. One of them will have to go in the summer anyway, if not both. It's a question that will keep Stan Bowman up in his race car bed.