SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Sounding as if he were proudly recalling the applause after one of his 513 NHL goals, Jeremy Roenick described Chicago's reaction to his midseason radio comment that the Blackhawks' goaltending wasn't good enough to win the Stanley Cup.
"Oh, yeah, a couple of my friends there gave me crap, asking me why I was bashing the Hawks, and I said, 'I'm not bashing the Hawks, I'm being honest,"" Roenick said with a chuckle during a phone interview Tuesday before the Blackhawks' 4-2 victory over the Sharks at HP Pavilion. "Look, (Cristobal) Huet's not in goal anymore for a reason. What did I say that was wrong?"
It's looking increasingly evident Roenick won't be proven right unless Antti Niemi, the man who replaced Huet, starts resembling a shaky rookie and stops playing like the postseason MVP.
I am not an expert on Finnish goalies, but I don't expect that trend to start.
"We did such a good job when we were leading, we didn't let them shoot at all and you could see they got frustrated," Niemi said.
Again Tuesday night, this Finn showed no signs of losing his edge and the Blackhawks no indication of letting up. Most obviously during a first-period flurry of saves, the heavily doubted Niemi outplayed another veteran goaltender who was supposed to give the Blackhawks' opponent an advantage. This time, it's Evgeni Nabokov, who Roenick acknowledged has looked "un-Nabby-like."
Or Luongo-lite, if you prefer.
"Antti was rock-solid again," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Now Niemi and the tough defense he praised have given the team a chance to control their destiny. If the Blackhawks don't lose again on their home ice, starting with Friday night's Game 3, they will be Stanley Cup champions.
It has become that simple. After tying an NHL record with their seventh straight playoff road victory, the Blackhawks are that close to making history.
"The only number we're looking for is six more wins and the Stanley Cup," Patrick Sharp said.
Thanks to that focus, the Blackhawks look as dominant as Roenick predicted they could be during a January interview on WMVP-AM that created a stir in the Blackhawks dressing room. But Roenick pointed out his critique on goaltending was based more on Huet's potential than Niemi's.
"It wasn't so much the concern but the guess what Niemi was going to be like," Roenick said. "I don't think anybody was questioning his talent. He has shown he has it in every series."
If Roenick thought his Chicago buddies gave him grief for criticizing the Blackhawks' goaltending situation, wait until they hear which team he's rooting for in this series. Hint: It's not the team that honored him Nov. 15 at the United Center with his own Heritage Night.
Et tu, JR?
"If you held a gun to my head and I had to choose one, I think San Jose," said Roenick, who retired in August after playing two seasons and 111 games with the Sharks. "I consider myself a Blackhawk through and through, and that is always who people associate me with most. They're part of me. But they did send me off to Phoenix (in a 1996 trade) ... and I have a very strong bond with San Jose."
More about that bond later. But first, it's impossible not to hear Roenick reveal his rooting interests without recalling his words before the November ceremony that paid tribute to Roenick's eight seasons and 524 games in a Blackhawks uniform.
"The Hawks are definitely in my blood and in my system," Roenick said that night.
He must have undergone a transfusion. Turns out Roenick bleeds teal.
It stems from Roenick's connection to former teammates but mostly from his loyalty to Doug Wilson. Wilson was beginning his 12th season as an All-Star defenseman with the Blackhawks in 1988 when he became Roenick's first NHL roommate. A bond developed.
When a dispirited Roenick decided to retire in 2007 after his final season in Phoenix, Wilson, the Sharks GM, called and coaxed his buddy into changing his mind.
"He gave me a chance to rekindle my career and retire on top with my head held high," Roenick said. "The fans and San Jose went far and beyond anything I could have expected."
Not even when the team that drafted Roenick is playing the team that granted him a graceful exit -- with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals at stake.
"I can't lose, (but) I don't know where my heart is because it can't be 100 percent in either place," Roenick said. "I think San Jose deserves a Stanley Cup. ... By the same token, Chicago does too."
Sorry, but Chicago's 49-year wait for a Cup makes San Jose's 19-year existence without a title seem like a good start.
"It's hard to watch these games," Roenick said.
It will be just as hard for Chicago hockey fans to hear Roenick's prediction for the series, sure to come up at his next Blackhawks reunion.
"Sharks in seven," Roenick said.
That's appearing more unlikely than ever, mostly because of the goaltending Roenick was wrong about too.