There are two days until the San Jose Sharks take the ice at SAP Center against the Los Angeles Kings, and although Todd McLellan hasn’t named his starter to the media, he has decided who will enter the net for Game 1.
A lot of people have been begging for Alex Stalock to start, stating that Antti Niemi is having a terrible year and that the Sharks can’t afford to have their netminder allow bad goals.
When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can not have your goalie giving up bad goals. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks. Two years ago, Corey Crawford gave up loads of bad goals, had a terrible postseason and the Hawks were out in six games. The next year, with roughly the same lineup, Crawford stood tall and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. You can’t have your goalie allowing bad goals in the postseason.
Thus, Antti Niemi should start game one for the San Jose Sharks.
“But Brian, you just said you can’t start a goalie who gives up bad goals! Did you see the goals Niemi gave up against Anaheim?”
Yes I did. He gave up some horrendous goals and it probably cost the Sharks the game. However, the defense against the Ducks in that game was also some of the worst defense I’ve seen the Sharks play in a very long time. Now, I’m not taking any of the blame away from Niemi. He deserves a lot of the blame for that game. He was terrible. And he is having a down year with a .913 save percentage. However, this “down year” stats-wise is only .02 percent behind that of Jonathan Quick, who is widely regarded as the “best goalie in the NHL,” but don’t even get me started about that. And it appears that the Sharks-Ducks game is the only game Sharks fans remember Antti Niemi played in.
Let me help you remember a few others.
There was a three game stretch in October where he shutout the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadians, and was .02 seconds away from overtime against the Bruins until a lucky deflection got past him. He also lost to the Boston Bruins 1-0 at SAP Center. He took down the Rangers 1-0 at Madison Square Garden. Niemi also started against the Kings when the Sharks won 3-2 in a shootout and when they beat them 2-1 in the most recent game they played at SAP Center.
My point is this: the Sharks do seem to play tough with Alex Stalock in net, and I also believe that soon, Stalock will surpass Niemi as the starting goalie for the Sharks. But the Sharks should start Niemi in Game 1. Niemi can really steal a game or two in this series.
But I think people are making too big of a deal about this goalie thing. The Sharks should beat the Kings. I believe they will win in seven games, although I believe they can win it faster. The Sharks are sixth in the NHL in GPG (Goals Per Game) and fifth in the NHL in GAPG (Goals Allowed Per Game).
The Los Angeles Kings are a defensive-minded team. They are first in the NHL in GAPG, but are 25th in GPG. 25th.There are 30 teams in the NHL, and they are 25th. That’s not very good. The Sharks are just a better team. They don’t have any problem scoring goals, they really don’t have any problem with keeping the puck out of the net, and they have two very good goalies in between the pipes. I think the Sharks should start Niemi, but it really doesn’t matter whether they do or not. If the Sharks goal scorers and defense can play the way they know how to, they should win the series with either goalie.