San Jose Sharks Trimester Report Card: GOALTENDERS
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.
THOMAS GREISS (8 GP, 4 W, W L, 0 0TL, .918% SV%, 2.37 GAA) has played an underappreciated role in the Sharks season thus far. It’s easy to overlook quality backup goaltending until you don’t have it. Just ask the Dallas Stars, who were 13-4-1 with their starting goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, in net, and 2-7-0 since with their backup goaltender, Andrew Raycroft, since Lehtonen got injured. And given the quality of goaltender Raycroft is, they’re lucky not to be 0-9. That’s how much having a bad backup goaltender can hurt you if your starter is out for an extended period of time.
The Sharks have been fortunate in that Antti Niemi was only injured for a couple games, but nevertheless, Thomas Greiss filled in admirably. He’s kept the team at .500% during his starts. If he was 2-6 a la Raycroft instead of 4-4, those 4 standings points could have come back to bite the Sharks in terms of playoff seeding.
Overall, Greiss has done a very good job backing up Niemi and filling in for him when need be. His save percentage of .918% and GAA of 2.37 are both very good numbers. Like Niemi, he gets in great position, challenges shooters, and leaves them little net to shoot at, although, being a smaller goaltender, he does leave a little more open net than Niemi. In his last start, he did got caught attempting ill-timed poke checks a couple of times, but that was just one game against a very hot team, and sometimes you have to give the other team credit. I wouldn’t be calling Greiss’ poke checks ill-timed if they had worked, and they would have had Marco Sturm and Tomas Fleischmann of the Florida Panthers not made such quick, precise moves.
The Sharks have gotten excellent goaltending from both their goaltenders so far this season, and Greiss has done more than his part in a backup role. You only need look around the league to see how bad most teams’ backup goaltenders are. The Sharks are actually quite spoiled with Greiss.
Written by Shark Circle
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