The stats are out there for all to see, and Cristobal Huet realizes one of his numbers in particular is driving Chicago fans batty as the regular season winds down.
Huet's save percentage is an unsightly .898 this season, 42nd-best in a League that is currently charting only 48 goalies in that category.
Since 1997, only Carolina's Cam Ward has led a team to the Stanley Cup after sporting a regular-season save percentage below .900. But Ward had his .882 percentage in only 28 games in 2005-06, and he improved to .920 in the playoffs.
"I try to be as consistent as possible, but this year I have had some ups and downs and it's something I'm not happy about," Huet told NHL.com. "But I have 26 wins and 12 losses and that's what matters at the end of the day."
Huet, who also has a 2.38 goals-against average, still is duking it out with Antti Niemi for the No. 1 job in Chicago. It was Huet's for a while, but before the Olympic break coach Joel Quenneville opened the competition by starting Niemi four-straight times.
Quenneville is hoping/banking on one of these two making the decision for him over the next month.
Huet says he can do it even if there is a growing legion of Hawks fans that were hoping he would be gone at the trade deadline for a more established goalie like Tomas Vokoun.
"I don't question too much about what people think," he said. "I believe in myself. I know I can do great things for the team."
He has in flashes this season, like how he has pitched shutouts against the Blackhawks' four Central Division rivals. But he hasn't had a shutout since Jan. 14, a 3-0 win against Columbus when he made 24 saves.
Instead, what's fresh in the fans' minds are the four second-period goals he allowed to Detroit this past Sunday. The Hawks built a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but Huet allowed four goals on eight shots in just over 10 minutes before Quenneville pulled the plug on him and stuck Niemi in there.
Niemi faced only eight shots the rest of the way, but the Hawks lost, 5-4, despite a hat trick by Andrew Ladd. Huet watched Wednesday as Niemi made 28 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against Los Angeles.
The Hawks don't play again until Saturday in Philadelphia, but it appears that Quenneville is going to go back to Huet again. However, that means Niemi could play Sunday in the NBC game against Washington.
"Huey has been the guy all year and as we have gotten into this little stretch Antti has gotten to play a little more and he's playing well so I don't want to stop that progress," Quenneville told NHL.com. "As we go down here to the end, I don't want to appoint a guy right now, but we'll see how it all plays out."
Either way, Huet will stay positive. He said the Hawks are winning and his goals-against average is good (eighth in the League), so it's really hard to complain about anything right now. Plus, he has a good relationship with Niemi. He said they're a team.
"The tendency here is you better win if you want to stay in the net, so you have to make sure the team is earning points on your watch," Huet said. "At the end of the day the team results are what matter, not whoever is in net or whoever wins. I want to play and he wants to play, and it's the coach's decision after that. It's out of our hands."
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