The NHL handed out its major awards on Saturday night, a list of trophies which included the Vezina for the league’s top goaltender. Taking home the award was Sergei Bobrovsky, who certainly deserved it. But should more consideration have been given to San Jose Sharks netminder Antti Niemi?
Heading into a year that many had considered a “make-or-break” type year after a couple of mediocre seasons with the Sharks, Niemi put together a brilliant 2013 season. Even when the Sharks’ offense fizzled out midway through the year, Niemi continued to be a consistent performer for this club.
His final numbers on the season included a .924 save percentage and a 2.16 save percentage, which includes four shutouts, one shy of the league lead. Those numbers are right in line with the league’s best. He was particularly good between the pipes in the second half of the year, when the Sharks needed wins.
At one point, Niemi put together a seven-game winning streak in which he allowed only 10 goals over that span. He went on to have another three game streak in the last month of the season in which he allowed only three goals total. That was all after starting the season with a six-game winning streak.
Obviously, it’s a regular season award, but Niemi was absolutely brilliant when the Stanley Cup Playoffs rolled around. Though the Sharks were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was not the fault of Niemi, who posted a 1.87 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
While it’s tough to argue against Sergei Bobrovsky as the Vezina Trophy winner, Niemi definitely deserved more respect in the actual voting. He finished third in the race, behind both Niemi and Henrik Lundqvist. This is a guy who finished tied for the league lead in wins, while finishing up with the league’s elite in every statistical category, while also starting 42 of 48 games. Must be a west coast thing.