The San Jose Sharks are 1-0-0 on the season so far, but there’s still a long way to go and the whole matter of that “postseason” thing, which has meant big trouble for this organization over the past several years. If their goaltending can continue what it did last year, in the form of Antti Niemi, though, this club could be in for big things in 2013-14.
Niemi was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, and while you could have made the case that others belonged in the mix for the hardware, there’s little doubt that Niemi deserved the attention that he garnered as the season wore on. He was a prime reason the Sharks were even able to reach the playoffs, given their dormant offense in the middle stages of the year.
The 2013 season for Niemi was really nothing short of brilliant. He posted career marks in virtually every category, going for a 2.16 goals against average and a .924 save percentage, including four shutouts. There were points during the season last year where he was literally carrying this Sharks team on his back.
Coming into the new year, some questioned whether or not Niemi could carry this success out over a full 82-game schedule. After all, while he was solid in his first two years in San Jose, he was never the elite presence that he showed last year. Would a full season this year undo what he was able to achieve last season?
That question still remains to be seen. His season opener did feature more brilliance, though, if you’re looking for any sort of indication. The team in front of him is still very strong, despite their shortcomings in the playoffs. He’s heading into his fourth full season as a starter at this level. There’s no reason to think that he can’t sustain the success that he had with the Sharks last season, and turn in another season in the ranks of the league’s elite.