Hawks' decision: Can Niemi or Huet capture a Cup?

Tim Sassone

With Antti Niemi getting the last four starts before the Olympic break it certainly opened the door for all kinds of theories and speculation.

Is Niemi now the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goalie? Let’s just call him 1A for now.

Did the Hawks have a particular motive in mind by going with Niemi those four games, or was it as simple as coach Joel Quenneville claimed, that he was just staying with the hot goalie? Only Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman know the answer to that question, and they’ll never say.

Did the Hawks want to see exactly what Niemi could do with a heavy workload ahead of the March 3 trade deadline before proceeding in addressing their most important position?

If that was the case, the Hawks saw what they have seen all season – Niemi making big saves at critical times to win games.

Sure, he left a few rebounds that wound up in the net in losing leads against Atlanta and Columbus, but Niemi came up big when the game was in the line.

Niemi stopped 11 of 12 attempts in three shootouts last week, earning the Hawks 3 additional points to bring them closer to San Jose.

Nevertheless, we don’t know if Niemi can get the Hawks through four rounds in the Stanley Cup playoffs, just as we don’t know if Cristobal Huet can do it. Bowman doesn’t know. Neither does Quenneville.

What we do know is Niemi gives the Hawks the best chance to win games right now so he should keep getting the majority of starts when the schedule resume March 2 on Long Island.

Quenneville knows this too or we would have seen Huet in Columbus.

What Bowman and his staff need to be asking themselves in the days leading up to March 3 is this: Is there a goalie available, such as Marty Turco, better than what the Hawks have?

It’s a difficult question and an even tougher one to answer. There’s a lot to like about Turco, but what would it cost the Hawks – a first-round draft pick or top prospect? Would you give that up for a better chance to win the Stanley Cup?


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