The San Jose Sharks have been one of the hotter teams in the game of late. They’ve managed to overcome their mid-season slide to enter the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. Right in the middle of all of that has been their goaltender, Antti Niemi.
Niemi came into the year as a guy facing a make-or-break-type season. He hadn’t quite lived up to his contract, demonstrating some inconsistency and failing to help the Sharks get over their playoff hope after winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
This season, it’s safe to say that he’s earning that contract. Even when the Sharks slide into that deep, dark place that was their mid-season slump, Niemi was a constant. He’s been incredibly steady for them all year and he has the numbers to back it up.
Niemi’s stats are right up there with some of the best goaltenders in the league. He has a 2.14 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Each of those are second best in the league among goaltenders among who have made at least 30 starts. Niemi’s 34 appearances in the cage are fourth most in the NHL.
He’s been particularly impressive as of late, leading this Sharks team that won eight games in a row at the end of March into April. During that streak he allowed more than two goals only once and posted two shutouts. That game in which he allowed more than two, he only allowed three.
It will be interesting to see if Antti Niemi can continue this pace into the postseason. He struggled mightily in the playoffs last year, winning just one of his five starts and posting a GAA of 2.45. Having this pace right now, with the playoffs just a couple of weeks away, is a good start towards improving his postseason fortunes.