The San Jose Sharks have suffered two significant injuries within a week. The absences of Dan Boyle and Brent Burns have been extremely detrimental to the team over its past three games, but San Jose was able to eek out a 1-0 victory in Detroit on Monday night.
The Sharks can lay all the praise for its eighth win in nine games this season on Antti Niemi, who became just the second goalie in franchise history to complete a shutout in Detroit. He had less protection on net without Boyle on the ice and less goal support with Burn out after taking a stick to the face in Saturday’s win over the Calgary Flames.
For the first time this season, the Sharks scored less than three goals, but all Niemi needed was one; it did not come until Logan Couture slotted one past Jimmy Howard in the third round of the shootout. Then on the Detroit Red Wings‘ final opportunity to extend the contest, Niemi sent away a Todd Bertuzzi shot with a beautiful kick save to wrap up the victory.
Niemi has been the MVP for the Sharks not only this season, but through last year’s playoffs as well. He has started every game this season and leads a Sharks defensive squad than ranks third in the NHL with 1.9 goals against heading into Monday’s game in Detroit.
Niemi was most impressive in the third period, with the Red Wings pounding the net and hoping to get on the board first. Detroit had twice as many shots on goal than the Sharks in the final period, but Niemi reigned dominant in crunch time. He sent away 24 shots in all.
Until Boyle returns from injury, the Sharks’ defense will continue to be pressured. But as long as Niemi is playing the way he is, San Jose will be just fine.