Antti Niemi is in his fourth season with the San Jose Sharks after winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks during his rookie year in 2009-10. The 30-year-old goaltender has been a workhouse for the Sharks, having started 48 of the club’s 59 games so far this season. Niemi has 29 wins on the year, ranking second among all NHL goaltenders behind only Pittsburgh Penguins standout Marc-Andre Fleury.
Niemi’s statistics this season are a little strange at first glance. In addition to his 29 victories, he ranks near the top of the league in total saves with 1,166 and total goals-against with 112. On the flip side, Niemi’s lackluster .912 save percentage puts him 28th in the league in that category. The Finland native has also only managed two shutouts this year, which ranks 20th among all goalies. Niemi’s goals-against average isn’t stellar either at 2.39.
You’d think a skilled, veteran netminder would be able to register more than two shutouts in 48 starts, especially when he plays behind one of the league’s best defensive teams. The fact that Niemi ranks fifth in total goals-against but 18th in goals-against average tells you that he doesn’t stop enough of the shots he faces, which is emphasized by his poor save percentage. It would seem that the reason the Sharks don’t give up many goals has more to do with strong team defense rather than great goaltending.
Still, it’s hard to criticize Niemi too much when he boasts such a strong record. He’s only lost 12 games in regulation this season and he does enough to give his team a chance of winning almost every match. Niemi has been solid enough to earn a “C+” on his report card.