Bad news for Antti Niemi is good news for Sharks fans.
According to Finnish website MTV, San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi is slated as the third-string goalie for Team Finland in the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
He will not even dress for the Finland’s first game on Thursday, as the Bruins’ Tuuka Rask will start and the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen will back him up.
While all three of Finland’s goaltenders are bona fide NHL starters, Niemi’s .912 save percentage is the lowest in the group. In addition, he has been rather inconsistent this season compared to last year, when he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
There have even been talks about Niemi possibly losing his job to the upstart Alex Stalock, his backup. Although this may be a far-fetched idea, as Niemi’s 29 wins is still good enough for second in the league, there is obviously not the same amount of confidence instilled in him as there was last season.
Which is why Sharks fans may have been concerned about him playing in the Olympics and tiring himself out even more. Niemi already leads the NHL in games started with 48, as Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan goes with his starting goaltender quite often.
Fortunately for the Sharks (and unfortunately for Niemi), their goalie may not play at all in Sochi, unless both Rask and Lehtonen disappoint. Maybe three weeks of rest will reinvigorate Niemi and we will see the Antti Niemi of last season.