Mount Pavelski Dwarfs Avalanche

Spend more than 10 minutes with any Colorado native, and you’ll swear they get paid for mentioning how “beautiful” and “spectacular” the Rocky Mountains are. Like broken records, they wax poetic about the majesty of these mountains ad nauseam. Don’t get me wrong, I was there last month for my sister’s wedding in a part of the State called Estes Park, and the Rocky Mountains are indeed stunning.

That said, enough already…we get it…they’re big mountains. Good job.

I have my own favorite mountain. It’s called Timm’s Hill in Price County, Wisconsin.  Timm’s Hill stands a whopping 1,952 ft above sea level, is the highest point in the Badger State, and as far as I’m concerned should have its’ name changed to Mount Pavelski. If that doesn’t work out, the State of Colorado should just name one of its’ numerous peaks after Joe Pavelski as payment for the job he has done recently on their hockey team, the Colorado Avalanche.

After scoring five goals in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Joe Pavelski welcomed himself back to Denver’s Pepsi Center with another pair last night. Notso Little Joe spearheaded a welcomed, potent attack from the San Jose Sharks during a convincing 4-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks’ first on the North American continent this season.

It was the Sharks’ play last night that was just so refreshing. After mailing in a couple of stinkers against Atlanta and Carolina, the Sharks played smart, tough and executed all night, and for the first time resembled last year’s Pacific Division dominating squad. Skating with Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski netted both of his goals in the second period versus solid Avalanche goalie, Craig Anderson.  Anderson’s play really should be noted, as he made some super stops and kept Colorado in a game that the Sharks frankly dominated. The Sharks also grabbed a tally from Scott Nichol and an empty netter late to seal the win by Logan Couture, and in the end, proved too much for Anderson and his mates to handle.

Speaking of a noteworthy goalie performance, here comes Antero Niittymaki! It’s not exactly Young versus Montana here, but the Sharks’ swap out to their other Finnish goalie, and Niittymaki’s resulting play may just create an interesting situation for Coach Todd McLellan. Coach has shown himself to ride a hot goalie, as he did in the past, most recently in the 2008-09 season, when Brian Boucher displaced starter Evgeny Nabokov for a couple of multi-game stretches during the season. Whether or not Niittymaki earns that same kind of playing time (or takes over the #1 altogether) remains to be seen.  Granted, this is but one game, but you can’t help but be excited if you watched Niittymaki last night.

So far in this young season, Niittymaki seems to possess a sharper reaction time and better rebound control versus what Antti Niemi has shown. Sharks fans have seen what Niemi can do when he is playing up to his potential, and if a guy breathing down his neck is what it takes to motivate his play away from the absolute defensive sieve he has provided thus far, game on.

If Antti Niemi is indeed the better goalie, and he probably is, let’s see it. Let’s see some unbelievable saves in a Sharks uniform Antti, let’s see some highlights in our gear versus only the ones we see of you standing on your head against us and others in your old Blackhawks sweater.

Up next are a couple of games in Western Canada against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, before the Sharks head home for a short two game homestand. It will be interesting to see how much time Niittymaki earns in net as in these coming tilts, as San Jose heads back towards the warm confines of HP Pavilion. Todd McLellan has never shown himself to play players only because of their famous name, with very high profile line tweaking and healthy scratches in the past.

Niittymaki’s play could spawn an open goaltender competition, which I am all for…and may the best Finn win.

Tags: Antero Niittymaki Chicago Blackhawks Colorado Avalanche Dany Heatley Estes Park Evgeni Nabokov Finnish HP Pavilion Joe Pavelski Logan Couture Rocky Mountains San Jose Sharks Scott Nichol Timm's Hill Todd Mclellan Wisconsin

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