It’s incredible what the San Jose Sharks have managed to do this season.
They managed to look like true Stanley Cup contenders with an unbeaten start through seven games. Immediately after getting everyone’s attention, they melted down and looked like the postseason started early. They have manged to rebound a bit of late and remain in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture.
If they are unable to find some consistency, there are questions about whether or not the Sharks front office will be willing to ride it out, or if they’ll look to start dealing some of their aging veterans to start a rebuild.
Through it all, Antti Niemi has remained consistent. The Sharks’ struggles have caused everyone to overlook the fact that Niemi has been playing some very fine hockey between the pipes this season.
Niemi hasn’t played his best hockey since arriving in San Jose after winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. He signed a four-year extension with the Sharks back in 2011, but had largely failed to live up to that money prior to this year. Not the case so far in 2013.
In 17 starts this season, Niemi has just one shutout. But his numbers remain extremely impressive. He’s posted a 1.83 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Even better, he’s only allowed more than three goals on two occasions this year in those 17 starts and has allowed three only three times.
There were some whispers over the summer that this could be a make-or-break year of sorts for Antti Niemi in San Jose. Another year like his last two, which weren’t bad, but were extremely average, and the Sharks could look to move him. At this point, it doesn’t look like Niemi has much to worry about.
He’s flying under the radar now, but if Niemi can maintain this level of play, we may be talking about him as a Vezina Trophy candidate. Even better for the Sharks, his play is keeping them afloat right now as they try and right the ship as we reach the midway point of the season.