San Jose Sharks Trimester Report Card: GOALTENDERS

Antti Niemi with the San Jose Sharks in 2011

ANTTI NIEMI (20 GP, 11 W, 6 L, OTL 2, .920% SV%, 2.30 GAA) has had an up-and-down first 25 games, but his body of work overall has been quite good, as indicated by his .920 SV% and 2.34 GAA. More than anything, Niemi’s strength is in filling up the net and making the first save, as he also specialized in playing for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-2010. The Sharks defensemen are fairly good at clearing out the crease and keeping opposing forwards away from rebounds, so usually the first save is the only one Niemi has to make.

Niemi plays out of his mind at times, and looks average at others, but it’s very rare he look poor for any extended stretch of time. A huge strength of his is how rarely he lets in soft goals. The Sharks have been the beneficiaries of many soft goals by opposing goaltenders this season, so they must know first hand the impact they have. Soft goals are killers, like giving the opposing team a free win many nights. They’re right up there with shorthanded goals. I bet if you charted the stats (and there was a way to do so objectively), in games where only one goaltender lets in a soft goal, probably 80% of the time that team loses.

With a team as talented as the Sharks in front of Niemi, he doesn’t need to be spectacular; he just needs to be steady, and that’s what he is, as much as any goaltender in the NHL. He is in many ways the perfect goaltender for this team, and one of the league’s better goaltenders.

GRADE: B+/A-

English: Thomas Griess during a Pre-Game skate...