MONTREAL - Prior to the 2005-06 season, the Bruins had yet to ever meet Cristobal Huet. Having now been shut out by Huet three straight times and counting, you can't really blame the Bruins for wishing they had never crossed paths with the Canadiens' netminder.
Saturday night at the Bell Centre, Huet did yet another one of his brick wall impressions in front of the Montreal net, stopping all 32 shots he faced for not only his seventh shutout of the season, but his third consecutive blanking of the Bruins.
Stating that Huet has Boston all figured out would be putting it mildly. In four games against the Bruins this season, the 30-year-old native of Grenoble, France has allowed only a pair of goals while posting a microscopic 0.50 goals against average and an eye-popping .985 save percentage. When the puck drops Tuesday night, Huet will attempt to extend his ongoing shutout string of 207 minutes that has seen the Bruins fire 107 pucks at Huet in vain.
Patrice Bergeron was the last Bruins player to slip a puck past the NHL's hottest goalie, but that was over two months ago. Bergeron has since fallen under Huet's spell, with his last 12 shots on No. 39 not finding the back of the net.
"I've run into hot goalies who have stolen games before, but never quite like this, not three shutouts in a row," admitted Bergeron, who would like nothing more than to personally end Huet's streak. "It's been really frustrating especially for me because, like the other night, I'm going to have a lot friends and family at the Bell Centre Tuesday."
Following an intense Monday afternoon practice that lasted over an hour, Bergeron made no secret that solving Huet was the Bruins main concern.
"If Huet has proven anything, it's that if he can see it, he'll stop it," said Bergeron. "We worked on getting more traffic in front of the net, as well as, deflections."
By blanking Boston three times this season, Huet has managed a feat that has not been matched by the Canadiens in almost 30 years. During a record-setting 1976-77 campaign that saw Montreal pile up 60 wins and 132 points, the Canadiens turned the trick against not one, but three different teams. That year, Detroit, Washington and Los Angeles all fell victim to the goaltending tandem of Ken Dryden and Michel "Bunny" Larocque, to the tune of three shutout losses apiece. Dryden, who was responsible for all three shutouts against the Capitals, has waited 29 years before seeing Huet do the same.
Even though Huet refuses to get caught up in all of the hype, his rapid climb up the NHL's goalie ranks now has the entire league's attention. Since beginning his Bruins' shutout streak back on Feb. 2, Huet is 14-3-3 with a 1.58 GAA and a .945 save percentage. By allowing two goals or less in 15 of his 20 starts over that span, Huet's average has been in absolute free-fall, dropping from 2.92 to 2.06 with Huet even taking over the league lead from Dominik Hasek in the process. Statistically, no goalie has been better than Huet of late and his pair of NHL Defensive Player of the Week awards are proof of that.
While he may be the talk of the town if not the entire NHL right now, Huet continues to be tight-lipped about his breakthrough season.
"Shutting out the Bruins three times in a row may be a lot, but that isn't what is most important to me," admitted Huet. "The bottom line is that we win as team and we lose as a team. That's all that really matters."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com