Niemi Proving He Is An Elite NHL Netminder

10/22/13 in NHL   |   patrickhoffman3530   |   122 respect

October 19, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) makes a save against the Calgary Flames during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Sharks defeated the Flames 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsWhen it comes to describing elite NHL netminders, one often thinks of goaltenders with quick glove hands, great use of the butterfly style, terrific on breakaways, and one that is worth all the money his team is paying him.

San Jose Sharks’ goaltender Antti Niemi may not have the flash of a Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), the reflexes of Sergei Bobrovsky or the composure of Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) but no matter how one looks at it, he is an elite goaltender.

When Niemi first began applying his trade in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season, no one quite knew what to make of him. Well, fast forward several months and he is helping the team win a Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers with a more than solid postseason.

Even with a Cup, a regular season in which he put up terrific numbers (26-7-0-4, 2.25 goals against average, .912 save percentage, and seven shutouts) and a playoffs in which he helped the team win the Cup, people were still questioning whether or not he could be a consistent netminder in this league. Three or so seasons later, the Sharks have a positive answer for that question.

Since joining the Sharks in the 2010-11 season, Niemi has been nothing but consistent. He has put up win totals of 35, 34, 24 (shortened season), posted goals against averages of 2.42, has had save percentages over .915 and has averaged close to five shutouts a season.

Over the course of the past three seasons, Niemi has gotten the Sharks into the postseason each year, helped the team get to the Western Conference Finals in 2011 and last season, got the team to within one win of getting to the Conference Finals once again. With Niemi between the pipes, the Sharks have been able to find some success in the playoffs.

Last season, in a strike-shortened year, Niemi began to prove that he was an elite goaltender with his first Vezina Trophy nomination. Last year, Niemi went 24-12-0-6 with a 2.16 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and had six shutouts.

By far and away, Niemi was the best player on the Sharks last year. He kept the team in almost every game he played, came up with big save after big save, kept soft goals to a minimum and was the team’s workhorse.

Niemi is doing the same thing once again this season, but perhaps even better than last year. Niemi is 8-0-1 with a 1.64 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and already has one shutout.

In his team’s 1-0 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings, Niemi stood on his head. He made 24 saves in regulation/overtime but saved his best for last in the shootout.

Todd Bertuzzi, the last shooter for the Red Wings, got absolutely robbed by Niemi. The Sharks’ masked man used his outstretched, up-in-the air right pad save to preserve the team’s eighth victory of the season to give them the best record in the NHL.
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