The San Jose Sharks have the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes. They’ll go for the knockout blow on Tuesday night. A sweep would send the Canucks into more disarray than the organization already finds itself in. If they’re able to do it, they can hand Antti Niemi the bulk of the credit.
Since the start of this series, the Canucks have been complaining about a variety of topics related to the play of their Sharks, from their supposed ‘cheating’ during faceoffs, to the embellishing from the likes of Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. Irony.
Perhaps the Canucks should be complaining a little more about the play of Antti Niemi. Since he’s one of the real reasons that this team stands on the brink of elimination. His strong play throughout the regular season has carried into the playoffs, and has this Sharks team primed for a deep run.
When the Vezina Trophy finalists are released later on this week, it would be very surprising to not see Antti Niemi’s name among the three up for the award. He’s been that good this year. Even when the Sharks were struggling throughout the middle of the season, he remained consistent.
Niemi finished the season with four shutouts, leading to a 2.16 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. His 24 wins in 2013 were tied for the league lead.
In the postseason, Niemi has looked just as strong as he was in the regular season. He’s allowed only five goals in three games combined, posting a .945 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA. He’s faced at least 30 shots in each of his trio of starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Niemi isn’t the only reason that the Sharks are off to a fast start in the postseason, but he’s a major factor for this team on their quest to win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.