Detroit 5, Chicago 4: Huet's collapse fuels Red Wings victory

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Huet2.jpgForget about my thoughts on whether the Red Wings may be entering a
time of diminishing returns as their stars get older; I still think the
hypothesis is relevant, just not applicable on this day.

No,
today we witnessed the other story of the day come to fruition. A strong
performance by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period was wasted
when Cristobal Huet turned into a sieve — once again — in net as a 2-0
lead instantly dissolved a 4-2 deficit in the space of six minutes and
fifteen seconds in the second period.

Now was it all on Huet? Not
necessarily. Chicago appeared to cruise into the second period with a
two-goal lead and the Red Wings were much more engaged coming out form
the second intermission. Add in some questionable defense and even worse
goaltending and you have a disaster of a period.

Yet of course,
the story of the game will surround the play of Cristobal Huet. The team
decided that they would stake their postseason success on the tandem of
Antti Niemi and Huet, and today was the prime example of the mistake
they made. There’s no way after a performance like today that either the
team or the fans can honestly feel certain that having a stellar
defensive corps alone can cover up for questionable goaltending.

Huet
actually started off the game playing well, stopping all nine shots he
faced in the first period. But with the Red Wings on the power
play, he either lost track of the puck or didn’t feel the need to
transition like he should have, and left the right side of the net wide
open for Brian Rafalski’s goal.

It was downhill from there.

So
where do the Blackhawks from here? Huet has allowed nine goals in his
past three games — not entirely bad but when you consider he has just a
.804 save percentage in those three games you realize how much he’s
struggled since the Hawks made the decision to ride with him for the
remainder of the season.

It’s obvious that Chicago will need to
turn to Antti Niemi now and perhaps for the playoffs as well. Can they
go with a tandem this late in the season? It’s generally not something
you’d expect a Stanley Cup contender to do, and they’ll need to make a
decision in one direction or the other.

It’s obvious that Huet is
not the answer, and this was not just one bad game. If the Chicago
Blackhawks plan on playing for a Stanley Cup championship in June,
they’ll have to do it in spite of their goaltending. The biggest blunder
of the trade deadline? We shall see in about six weeks or so when the
playoffs begin.

Video: all 9 of this afternoon’s goals.

 

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.