Former Chicago Blackhawks great Jeremy Roenick, who now plies his trade as a hockey analyst with NBC-TV, told a Windy City radio station on Wednesday that Chicago's goaltending is not good enough to bring home the club's first Stanley Cup since 1961.
"They can get by with (No. 1 keeper Cristobal) Huet, there's no question about it," Roenick said. "They can even get by with (backup Antti) Niemi, they're so good. It just comes to if your goaltender has a bad game, though, and especially in a big-time situation, that's not going to bode very well for a Stanley Cup championship.
"They are good goaltenders, don't get me wrong," Roenick said. "It just remains to be seen whether they can really knuckle down and take it to the next level."
One man's opinion, said Huet Thursday morning.
"He's allowed to say whatever he wants. I respect that. But we think we can do it," Huet said prior to the 'Hawks' evening game in Calgary. "It's not always easy to play for this team. Not a lot of shots, and still some good scoring chances.
"He's allowed to say whatever he wants. I respect that. But we think we can do it. It's not always easy to play for this team. Not a lot of shots, and still some good scoring chances. He can say whatever he wants, but at the end of the night ... we're winning right now."
-- Cristobal Huet
The 'Hawks entered Thursday's action two points back of San Jose for top spot in the NHL, and have virtually locked up their first divisional crown since 1993.
Huet, who's played 36 games this season, and Niemi, who was set to play his 17th of the season against the Flames Thursday, have backstopped the Hawks to the second-best team defense numbers in the league. The 'Hawks had allowed 2.16 goals a game, just a touch less stingy than the New Jersey Devils (2.14).
Still, Roenick told WMVP-AM 1000 that GM Stan Bowman might want to consider a trade between the pipes.
"They just need that one little extra boost in goal that I think that would make the guys more confident," Roenick said. "(Huet and Niemi) are still two good goaltenders, but I don't know if they could do it for the full 16 wins."
Forward Patrick Sharp, however, was quick to point out that Chicago's goaltenders have each contributed four shutouts to the 'Hawks' team-leading total of eight. Niemi holds the best goals-against average (1.90) of any NHL netminder who's played more than a few games this season, while Huet's average (2.24) stands sixth among starters.
"We're fine with our goaltending. JR has been around a long time. He knows a lot about the game. But I think you look around the room, we're pretty satisfied with our goaltenders," Sharp said. "We feel like we can win with them. Whether it's 'Antsy' or 'Huey,' we're getting a good effort back there, and we're not going to let an outside source influence our team."
Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien agreed that his club is entirely comfortable with its goaltending identity.
"In this locker room, we believe more than enough in our goalies," Byfuglien said. "I'm going to have to disagree with (Roenick). I think we've been getting pretty good goaltending."
Niemi, playing his first full season at the NHL level, hasn't made a postseason appearance. Huet, who first broke into the NHL with Los Angeles, has a record of 5-8 as a playoff starter with the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, but hasn't won a series.
"There was a lot of concern last year that we had inexperience throughout our whole lineup, that we hadn't won a playoff series," Sharp said, "and we did pretty well. That's fine, if you want to point the finger and make (inexperience) an excuse, but we're very confident in our goaltending."