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Roenick Opens Up a New Debate Over Chicago's Goaltending

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 19: Goalie Cristobal Huet #39 of the Chicago Blackhawks,looks on against the Ottawa Senators in a game at Scotiabank Place on January 19, 2010 in Ottawa, Canada.  The Ottawa Senators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1.(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images
Eric LaForgeCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2010

Without a doubt, Jeremy Roenick is one of the most respected American players of all time. He had a ton of great years in Phoenix, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a bunch of other teams. However, his comments over the Hawks goaltending are a little less respected.

Roenick is now an analyst for NBC-TV and said the other day that the Blackhawks did not have the goaltending to win a Stanley Cup.

He acknowledged that both Niemi and Huet are great goalies, but, he also said that they need to take it to the next level.

There are many reasons that you can disagree with Roenick. The biggest reason is that the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the best teams in the NHL right now. They are winning games and steamrolling over opponents, even with the goaltending "not going to the next level."

Statistically, Niemi's year has been better. His GAA is at 1.9 and his save percentage at .921. However, that's only in 16 games. Huet is 29th in the NHL in save percentage (.904), but he's 6th in GAA (2.24).

In other words, yes, Huet could (and should) improve his save percentage. But I don't think it's going to make much of a difference in the Hawks' success this season. That's because they're still one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.

Despite having a starting goalie that's 28th in save percentage, Chicago is still ranked second in the NHL in defense, allowing 2.2 goals per game.

If the save percentage were a real big issue, it would be reflected in the defensive ranking, and it's not. Niemi has also been playing extremely well, but he has still seen less games than Huet.

At this point, I'd like to see him get more starts because he's definitely earned it.

But the point is that the Hawks play solid defense in front of both goalies. I've always said that you need a strong goalie to bail you out of trouble, but the Hawks are doing something even better. They're not getting in defensive trouble in the first place.

So, even though Roenick says they don't have the goaltending to win a Stanley Cup, I think this may be one of those very rare situations where you don't need a really good goalie to win the Stanley Cup. As long as they keep playing solid in front of the net, they'll be just fine.

See more of Eric's NHL Opinions at Tips for Hockey

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