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Islanders 5, Blackhawks 3: Roloson shines, Niemi/Huet stumble, Comeau hat tricks

This is a script only the mischievous hockey gods could draw up: Take season-long rumblings that the very talented Blackhawks cannot go all the way with their goaltending. Throw in a mostly excellent season from the rumored-about Dwayne Roloson, nearing the end of his career but capable of carrying a team. Conspire to have these two teams have their only meeting on Trade Deadline Eve.

The rest is obvious: Roloson stands on his head stopping 41 shots for a completely overmatched squad, and Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet team up in a show of LOLtending that makes Joel Quenneville's head explode. It was Roloson's eighth 35-or-more-save performance of the year.

Game Sum. | Event Sum. | Corsi | Recaps: | Isles

Final - 3.2.2010 1 2 3 Total
Chicago Blackhawks 2 0 1 3
New York Islanders 1 4 0 5

Complete Coverage >

Oh, also: Blake Comeau, who never had a mutli-goal game before February, scores his first NHL contract.

Not to rain on a delightful result, but the rest of the Islanders really were awful tonight. The puck was constantly in their zone, several stretches of 5-on-5 looked like a Hawks powerplay, and as a matter of fact, the Hawks weren't called for a single penalty. Corsi is hardly the end-all, be-all, but seriously: Look at these figures. It was as if they were told to showcase Roloson by allowing a Hawks shooting gallery. At one point, Roloson showed off by playing without his stick. As if to say: "Hey, Chi-town. Can your goalies do this?"

What's wild is a very similar Isles theft happened last season when the Islanders visited Chicago, in a 40-save Peter Mannino display that would seem to underline how goaltending can have a much bigger psychological and tangible impact than it reasonably ought to. I mean, last year it was just Mannino, who's back in the AHL this year. But the message, as we rush headlong into the final hours of the NHL silly season, is that the Hawks could waste a year of their championship-caliber window by heading into the playoffs with goaltending that could fall apart.

Of course that's the maddeningly immeasurable part of proverbial "playoff" goaltending, isn't it? Average goalies have won before, average goalies will win again. Anyone can get hot or rise to their peak for six weeks in front of a good team. But as soon as that goaltending looks, well, average, the plague of doubt floods the team, the coaching, the management, the media and the fans (and Jeremy Roenick, of course). Everyone can feel it.

The killer for the Hawks is, you could acquire a guy like Roloson and ride him all the way to finals only to have disaster strike like it did to then-Oiler Roloson in 2006. Or, you could do the same and your normally stellar new goalie could be just average. Like Martin Brodeur vs. Carolina average. Even Roberto Luongo vs. Chicago (or Team USA) average. You just never know.

Game Highlights

Comeau's Career Night

But it would be wrong to only chuckle at the Chicago effects of this game when the victory would not have been possible without Comeau's hat trick. Richard Park and Jon Sim's goals were goofy, but Comeau took a nice Rob Schremp Hockey-forced turnover (the first of two Schremp assists) for the first goal and shot two top-shelfs for his second and third. I don't know if he took shooting practice over the break or if it was just more subtle effects of the Niemi/Huet experience, but it was nice. It was the kind of shooting you hope to one day again see from John Tavares.

Happy Note

As Marty noted in the game thread: Hey, one win down, only 14 to go in the final 19 to gain a potential playoff bubbly 88 points. No sweat. But on the realistic bright side, this win matches their win total from last year and brings them within a point of the 61 compiled during last year's 30th-place finish. Funny what a little progress and :cough: goaltending can mean.