I am a Cristobal Huet FAN.
I celebrate the man’s entire catalog. For my money, it doesn’t get any better than when he sings “When A Man Loves A Woman.”
OK, for those of you who haven’t seen Mike Judge’s brilliant 1999 comedy, Office Space, that’s what I’m riffing on above. For those of you who have, chuckle accordingly.
Big win last night for a flat Hawks team against the game Blue Jackets. Lots of heroes: Kris Versteeg with one of the sweetest stick moves you will ever see. Brent Seabrook, coming up big in the eleventh round of the shootout to win the game, with a better deke than nearly all the Hawk forwards preceding him. Duncan Keith, further cementing his reputation as arguably one of the top 2-3 defensemen in the league with another brilliant 2-way performance.
But my biggest hero, and I suspect for a lot of fans this morning, is #39.
Honestly, as a frequent visitor to this and other Blackhawk fan boards, I am shocked at how many die-hard Huet haters are now coming around and grudgingly admitting: “we can win with this guy.”
I have said this before and I’ll say it again; the man from St. Martin D’Heres is the most over-analyzed, and probably the most unfairly maligned, goalie in hockey.
He is not the athlete that Dominik Hasek was. Not even close. His backup, Antti Niemi, is a better athlete than he is. He is not the textbook, positional goaltender that so many in the NHL are: Luongo, Brodeur, etc. He is not the fiery personality Luongo is or Billy Smith was. Again, not even close.
He can be streaky, both good and bad. He can give up the soft goal or deliver a weak game.
But he is a lot of good things, not the least of which are a battler, and a model teammate.
You see all goalies, even Hall of Famers and Vezina winners give up soft goals and bad games. Huet—as he showed in game 5 of the Western finals last year, after he was dealt from Montreal to Washington in favor of Carey Price, as he showed after a wretched start this season— always takes responsibility on himself, never points fingers and battles back to perform brilliantly.
Last night was Huet in microcosm. He played well at times, but he did have one softie and one iffy goal scored in regulation. But he seemed to dial it in in the third period. He really wasn’t tested in OT, except once when he came up big.
In the shootout though, he was brilliant. Yes, he did give up a goal to Jakub Voracek early on. But his reaction was very telling; he looked up in the air, as if replaying the goal in his mind, shook his head as if to say “d---, I know what he did.” And he locked it down from there. Another nine Blue jacket shooters could not solve Huet.
And it was Huet at his best: calm, big in the net, taking a lot of things away and not overreacting.
Many anti-Huet Hawk fans have theorized that the team lacks faith in Huet, and they don’t play as well in front of him as they did Nikolai Khabibulin. Au contraire. Aside from the fact that Huet is a much, much better puckhandler than Khabibulin is, this team has lit it up in front of Huet this year. Further, a little inside information I have is Hawk players greatly admire the Frenchman for his willingness to take responsibility, deflect credit and work hard for the team.
After his miserable start to the season, he stood up in front of his teammates at one point and said, essentially, “this is all on me. I can do better. And I will. Stick with me.”
And as he did last night, Huet delivered. He will have some bad games, folks, but he is proving to a lot of doubters he will battle back and win a lot more.