Antti Niemi: San Jose Sharks Player of the Week
It was a disastrous week for the San Jose Sharks. The club won just one of the four games they played this week, and had to go to a shootout to come away with the lone victory.
The Sharks were shut out in back-to-back contests to start the week, first by Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and then by Ben Scrivens, who made a record-setting 59 saves in the Edmonton Oilers‘ 3-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday.
Over the course of the four games the Sharks played this week, the team managed just two goals. Captain Joe Thornton didn’t register a single point, Patrick Marleau had just one point, and Brent Burns and veteran defenseman Dan Boyle went scoreless. Even Joe Pavelski, who had an incredible scoring outburst last week, managed just one point.
Needless to say, it was a challenge to pick a player of the week. Nobody on the team played particularly well, and I’d go so far as to say that the majority of the Sharks played exceptionally poorly.
However, there was one man who stepped up and played an integral role in San Jose’s 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. His name is Antti Niemi, the former Blackhawk who stopped 29-of-30 shots fired at him and came up big in the shootout, preventing the Sharks from going 0-4 on the week.
Niemi was the difference between victory and defeat on Saturday. Without his strong play between the pipes, San Jose would be on a four-game losing streak heading into Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Finnish netminder didn’t have an amazing week, having started just two games and surrendering three goals against a weak Edmonton squad in one of them, but he’s without a doubt the reason why the Sharks were able to come out with a win against the Blackhawks.
In 46 appearances this season, Niemi has 28 wins, a .914 save percentage, a goals-against average of 2.35 and two shutouts. He ranks first in the league in total minutes played among all goaltenders with 2,707.
Hopefully the boys in teal can bounce back this coming week as they continue to fight for a top seed in the tightly contested Western Conference. They’ll host the Flyers on Monday, the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, three teams that should be beatable.