In seasons past, Antti Niemi has been known to show up when the Sharks offense undergoes a dry spell. That is just what happened for Niemi in goal this week. Let’s put it this way: in the first week of this season (Oct. 8 – Oct. 12) the Sharks offense was rolling, they posted 20 goals and went 4-0-0. This past week, the Sharks were only able to score 3 times with Niemi in goal and they still went 2-1. That is less than half of their goal production in the first week, and they scored 9 goals in one game against the Rangers.
So you may ask, how did the Sharks manage to go 2-1 this week with Niemi in goal and with only 3 goals in those three games while being on the road the entire time? The obvious answer would be your MVP of Week 4, Antti Niemi.
In the first game of the week, Niemi recorded his first shutout of the season against former Western Conference rivals, the Detroit Red Wings. The game was quite a boring one, due to the absence of the Sharks’ and Wings’ 2013-14 offensive production. But, I couldn’t help but notice how great the goaltending was on that day. The score stayed 0-0 all the way through regulation and overtime. That was where one of Niemi’s most beautiful save of the night came in. Here it is (if you haven’t already seen it):
Then, the team flew down to Boston to face-off against the Bruins in a preview of the favorites for the Vezina trophy so far this season. Once again, the Sharks’ offense was dry, despite their 35 shots thrown at Tuukka Rask. Team Teal clearly dominated the game but Rask held his own and only let one goal by. It was 1-1 all the way until the last second of the game, literally. A fluke tip-in by David Krejci that left Niemi no chance ended up being the game-winner with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. How unlucky! Still, Niemi held the team in the game the whole way and gave them their opportunities to come away with 2 points that unfortunately weren’t converted. I guess the hockey gods weren’t with the Sharks on this one. They couldn’t bear seeing one team without a regulation loss. But, hey, I will take 2 goals against any other day.
Finally, the Sharks took a trip to Montreal to go on to win there tilt against the Canadiens in another brilliant Niemi showing. Niemi recorded his league leading 2nd shutout of the year in the Sharks’ 2-0 win. The Sharks heavily outshot the Canadiens in this contest, but still, getting a shutout is quite impressive in any NHL game.
Niemi finished the week with only 2 goals against compared to the Sharks dismal 3 goal week. He was the biggest reason why the Sharks were able to get out of this week on the road with a winning record, which is why he is Blades of Teal’s choice as MVP of week 4.
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