Kukla's Korner Hockey
Entries with the tag: antti niemi
from David Pollak of the Mercury News
Conventional wisdom says the trades you don't make often are the ones that work out best. If the Sharks do make the playoffs this season, they may point to goaltender Antti Niemi as the latest example of that.
Niemi's name was circulating as one of several pending unrestricted free agents that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was open to trading before the March 2 deadline. For whatever reason — maybe the return would not have been high enough, maybe Niemi was taken off the market — that did not happen.
Now, after his 39-save performance in San Jose's 2-1 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Niemi acknowledged Tuesday that there may have been a minor change in his mindset once the deadline passed.
"It's hard to try not to think about it," said Niemi, who stopped seven of eight Pittsburgh shots in the shootout as well. "You still hear, especially from you guys (media), you hear the rumors. I don't think I thought about it too much, but of course it's gone now, so there's nothing to think about anymore."
The New York Rangers' salary structure is quite top-heavy, so both the Rangers' beat writers and those following the team from afar have suggested that the Rangers will have to use a cap-compliance buyout on either Rick Nash or Brad Richards.
The combination of Brad Richards' resurgence under Alain Vigneault (to the tune of 51 points for his Capgeek-listed $6.67 million cap hit) and Rick Nash's struggles (39 points in 63 games and a no-show come playoff time for a cap hit of $7.8 million) have those in the know suggesting that Nash is the odd man out.
This morning, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson wonders where Nash's game went given that the 6'4," 213-pound winger's become a perimeter player in the first of three "Hockey World" columns:
Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: adam+oates, alex+tanguay, antti+niemi, barry+trotz, brad+richards, colorado+avalanche, marian+hossa, new+york+rangers, paul+holmgren, philadelphia+flyers, rick+nash, ryan+miller, san+jose+sharks, scotty+bowman
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson kicked off his last regular-season slate of Hockey World columns with individual awards picks, and his pick for the Vezina Trophy is a surprising one:
Vezina Trophy (top goalie)
1. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado.
2. Tuukka Rask, Boston
3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay
Had off-ice issues this year which weighed on him but very consistent work. Rask is best Finnish goalie right now, and they’ve got a full stable of good ones around the NHL. Bishop, nursing sore wrist as playoffs loom, is a six-foot-seven giant and a workhorse.
Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: antti+niemi, calgary+flames, detroit+red+wings, edmonton+oilers, evander+kane, george+mcphee, henrik+zetterberg, jonathan+ericsson, ken+holland, ryan+smyth, san+jose+sharks, semyon+varlamov, vezina+trophy, washington+capitals, winnipeg+jets
If Todd Bertuzzi scores, the shootout continues, but Niemi makes a great save to win the game 1-0.
In my previous preview of the top goalies, I had mentioned Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Ryan Miller as my top five options. Upon reflection and much debate, I discovered many other names that could be considered top 5 (or at least top 10). Many goalies are drafted in the early rounds of fantasy drafts, since top-notch starting goalies can be impossible to find on the waiver wire once the season starts. To help you find the right goalie(s), I have provided ten more goaltending options that could legitimately fall into the category of the NHL’s better starting goalies. And I promise that there will be no commercials while you read this.
Filed in: Fantasy Hockey and Gaming, thegoods13, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: antti+niemi, cam+ward, carey+price, corey+crawford, fantasy+hockey, ilya+bryzgalov, jimmy+howard, jonathan+quick, marc-andre+fleury, martin+brodeur, the+goods, tomas+vokoun
I came across a poll somewhere, maybe on CSN, asking fans how they thought the Sharks look now, you know, what we think the team could still improve. One of the options was goaltending. Most fans chose depth forwards. Seems reasonable.
Seeing that goaltending option got me thinking. In theory, the team is pretty well set there. In theory, Niittymaki should be able to play enough games so Niemi doesn’t play as many as last year. Like, 30+ would be nice.
From Terry Jones via the Edmonton Sun:
Antti Niemi now admits to getting giddy in private moments at several stages of the remarkable Stanley Cup story he has written so far.
But not now.
It’s almost all real now, he swears.
“Not so much this year, but I think, yes, last year,” he said of those private personal moments while backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup last year.
Niemi began to stop marveling at being a guy who, not that long ago, was driving a Zamboni at the rink in his hometown of Vantaa, Finland, the moment he knew the salary-cap challenged Blackhawks were not going to be able to bring him back for an encore.
From Dave Lozo at NHL.com:
Niemi didn’t post a GAA higher than 2.38 during a month the rest of the way and went 22-5-3 after the All-Star break with a 2.10 GAA and .917 save percentage. He had a few hiccups during the Sharks’ opening-round series with the Los Angeles Kings, but he’s been rock-solid in two games against the Red Wings.
“I felt pretty good both games,” Niemi said. “The start is going to be big because it gives you an idea of how you’re going to feel the rest of the night. If you can make a few good saves early, it helps. It gives me more confidence and makes my playing easier.”
After he was perhaps the most-hated man in San Jose last season, he’s the biggest reason for the Sharks’ late-season success.
“He’s certainly showed in the second half what kind of goalie he is,” Boyle said. “He’s been the backbone of our team. He’s such a calm guy back there.”
There wasn’t much lingering doubt about Todd McLellan’s thoughts on the Sharks goalie situation after Sunday’s Easter practice.
“Nemo will play tomorrow,” McLellan calmly stated. “He is our guy. We feel really good with (Niemi). He’s had a bounce back game already and played extremely well the night after getting hooked.”
McLellan’s quote let everyone know the Game 5 loss couldn’t solely be placed at Niemi’s feet.
“I don’t think we did a lot to help him,” McLellan said. “I think we addressed that after the game. He’s ready to go back in and we have a ton of confidence in him.”
via the San Jose Sharks,
The Sharks have locked up Antti Nieimi for a four year extension.
More details to follow.
added 12:22pm, via Pierre LeBrun tweet,
Niemi extension is $3.8 million average salary, four-year deal
SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the team has signed goaltender Antti Niemi to a four-year contract extension. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Niemi has appeared in 42 games with San Jose this season, posting a 23-15-3 record with a 2.44 goals-against average (13th NHL), a .919 save percentage (T-13th NHL) and five shutouts (T-5th NHL).
“We wanted Antti to remain a San Jose Shark and he wanted to be here,” said Wilson. Once he got through his expected integration period with our club, Antti’s play has been outstanding and, just as important, he has consistently been a great teammate. And like many of his teammates over this past year, he worked with us on a contract that fits within our team structure and enables us to keep our group intact.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
At the time of the signing, GM Doug Wilson cited Niemi as a key reason the Sharks were swept by Chicago in the Western Conference final. Would lightning strike twice for the long-suffering Sharks, who have never advanced to a Cup final let alone won a Stanley Cup, with Niemi in the fold? Well, so far it’s been more charred rubble than lightning as Niemi has been a major disappointment through the first couple of weeks of the season.
Niemi has lost three straight and lasted just 8:36 on Sunday as the Calgary Flames poured three past him in less than half a period. Overall, Niemi’s numbers look like this: 1-3 record, .854 save percentage and 4.49 GAA. In short, it looks like Antero Niittymaki may end up winning the starting job in San Jose by default.
more hockey topics…
“The most important thing was the win, but for me personally, it was great to get the win in my first game with my new team so that I don’t have to worry about that.
A win, two goals against, it was OK.”
-San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. More on the game from Risto Pakarinen at NHL.com.
If there was ever a National team program historically greater than the sum of its parts, it would be Team Finland. Despite not having the offensive depth of many of their Elite Seven rivals, the Finnish National Team has repeatedly fared well in recent international best-on-best competition. After enduring many decades of lopsided defeats internationally at the hands of Canada, the former Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and longtime nemesis Sweden, the Finnish hockey program made great strides in the 1990’s, culminating with a World Championship in 1995. In addition, Finland has won more Olympic Hockey medals (1 silver, 2 bronze), than any other nation, since the introduction of NHL players to the Games in 1998.
Finland’s success can be attributed to a strong emphasis on teamwork and the fact that unlike their European rivals, hockey is indisputably the number one sport in their homeland, which has led to the implementation of adequately funded development programs and a strong domestic league in SM-liiga. More than any other European team, Finland employs a fast skating, tight forechecking, North American style of play, augmented by strong defensive zone coverage and consistently elite goaltending. The rinks in Finland have been adjusted to enhance the tight forechecking style of play, by adopting a size that is halfway between the dimensions of NHL and IIHF standards. Furthermore, in an effort to aid the National Team’s development programs, numerous goaltending schools have been created, and often led, by the country’s top puck stoppers. This has led to the emergence of many elite young goalies in the NHL, such as Tuukka Rask, Pekke Rinne, Antti Niemi and perhaps Kari Lehtonen, if he can find health and consistency in a Dallas Stars uniform.
Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, International Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: antti+niemi, dallas+stars, espoo+blues, iihf, jere+lehtinen, kari+lehtonen, mikko+koivu, olli+jokinen, olympic+hockey, pekke+rinne, saku+koivu, sm-liiga, teemu+selanne, tuomo+ruutu, tuukka+rask
Before a single tweak to the roster, the Tampa Bay Lightning were already poised for improvement in 2010-11. With the tumultuous era of previous ownership already behind them when the sale of the team to Jeff Vinik was completed late last season, gone in an instant were any and all off-ice concerns and the circus went back to being an annual visitor to the St. Pete Times Forum rather than a permanent resident. With the appointment of Steve Yzerman as general manager, credibility returned to the franchise and new head coach Guy Boucher was widely regarded as the hottest commodity on the off-season coaching market.
Without a solitary player move, hockey life in Tampa was good again.
But far be it from Yzerman to rest on the comfort that fans surely feel by him simply not being one of those other guys. The addition of former Flyers forward Simon Gagne headlines a list of shrewd off-season maneuvers for the rookie GM and the revamped roster could very well translate to the sort of on-ice success that will make Lightning followers quickly forgot about three non-playoff seasons gone by.
Filed in: NHL Teams, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | KK Hockey | Permalink
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SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the team has signed Group III un-restricted free agent goaltender Antti Niemi to a one-year contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Niemi, who turned 27 on Aug. 29, helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup last season, posting a 16-6 mark in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games, a 2.63 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage along with two shutouts.
During the 2009-10 regular season with Chicago, he notched a 26-7-4 mark in 39 games, with a 2.25 goals-against average (4th in the NHL) and a .912 save percentage and seven shutouts (3rd in the NHL).
“Antti’s play last season speaks for itself,” said Wilson. “Our goal this summer was to create the best goaltending unit we could and we feel we have successfully done that.”
The six-foot-two, 210-pound native of Vantaa, Finland was originally signed by the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent on May 5, 2008.
from Nick Kypreos tweet,
West coast source has confirmed Antti Niemi will sign with the Sharks as early as tomorrow. I hear 2M base, possibly for just the 1 year.
added 3:52pm, via Craig Custance tweet,
Got confirmation from a league source that Antti Niemi is headed to San Jose. Will accept 1-year, $2 million offer.
from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,
In another 15 years, I wonder if the image of Niemi making saves still will be recognizable in the memories of Blackhawks fans. Or if, by then, Niemi will be a mere answer to a trivia question asking who was the goaltender the first time the Hawks won the Cup this century.
If you still have a hard time accepting the salary-cap machinations two weeks ago that resulted in Niemi becoming an ex-Blackhawk, you’re not the only one.
“I thought it would get worked out all along and never really thought it wouldn’t,” Niemi said. “And then when it happened and they signed (Marty) Turco, I was real disappointed. I still am. But it worked out for them, so …”
Niemi didn’t finish his sentence.
But the pain in his voice was obvious when he discussed the speed with which the Hawks moved on after an arbitrator awarded Niemi a $2.75 million salary the team chose not to pay.
from Gary Peterson at the Mercury News,
But, and here we arrive at Niemi’s unique appeal where the Sharks are concerned, how delicious would it be to wind up with the goalie from the team that swept you in last season’s conference finals? Before you dismiss it as no factor, remember that Wilson, like most GMs in the NHL, isn’t known for pursuing restricted free agents, but he still signed Chicago’s Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet.
The Sharks and Chicago were the class of the West last season. The Blackhawks were the hottest when the two teams met in the playoffs. Now the salary cap has turned them into what could be a one-hit wonder. This could signal some high times for the Sharks, if they can get their goalie situation in order. If they can do that and strike a psychological blow against the reigning Stanley Cup champions? Reasonably priceless.
from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,
Now, months after fans at the United Center chanted Niemi’s name, I have heard from many people trying to disparage it. Suddenly the Finn who beat out Cristobal Huet and outplayed Roberto Luongo is merely serviceable?
Not only is it unnecessary to minimize Niemi’s contributions to justify the Blackhawks’ tough decision to let him become a free agent, doing so unfairly portrays the team as the winner in this standoff. Breaking news: Nobody won here. I don’t need an arbitrator’s ruling to declare this one of those rare cases of lose-lose.
The Hawks lost a 26-year-old goaltender whose Cup experience one day may work against them. Niemi lost out on the chance to play behind a team full of elite defensemen for a first-class organization that gave him an opportunity in a great city that considers the Finn part of hockey history.
He will be missed. The Hawks just found “Nemo.’’ Now we have to say goodbye?
added 7:25am, from Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Move on, get over it and get to know Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, Viktor Stalberg and, of course, veteran goalie Marty Turco.
That would be my advice to Blackhawks fans who are ready to tear their Indianhead sweaters to shreds because of the seemingly never-ending dismemberment of the team that won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
from Dave Lozo of NHL.com,
A 26-year-old goaltender with a Stanley Cup ring has to find work somewhere, right? Most teams seem pretty set in their goaltending situations as of today, but there are a few places where Niemi could make a good fit.
Goaltenders signed: Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth
The Capitals are on the record as saying they are content to go with their young goaltenders this season. But that was before Niemi became available.
via Chris Kuc tweet,
Blackhawks confirm they are walking away from Antti’s Niemi’s arbitration award and have signed Marty Turco to a one-year contract.
added 10:54am, Remember Turco’s agent saying last week that Turco would be a starter with a contender?
added 12:02pm, from Tim Sassone of Between The Circles,
Unfortunately for Niemi, the Hawks had to play hardball with somebody over money and he just happened to the in the wrong place at the wrong time as the last guy in line.
It hurt Niemi and the Hawks badly when San Jose signed Niklas Hjalmarsson to that four-year, $14 million offer sheet. While the Hawks matched, it cost them probably $1 million or more than they expected to pay Hjalmarsson. That was the money needed to keep Niemi.
...the Cup is in the hands of the Hawks as it makes its way around the world. That’s the important thing.
And when it finally comes to rest, they will be a big part of any title discussion for next season.
With or without Niemi.
-Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times where you can read more on the Blackhawks and Niemi.
via Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune at Chicago Breaking Sports,
According to multiple reports Saturday, an arbitrator has awarded Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi $2.75 million for next season.
That figure appears low enough that the Hawks could work under the NHL’s salary cap to retain the netminder or there is still a possibility general manager Stan Bowman could trade him.
The Hawks have 48 hours to decide whether to accept the award or walk away from it, allowing Niemi to become a free agent. They could also accept the award and then trade Niemi and sign a veteran free agent at a lower salary.
It’s believed Niemi asked for more than $3 million for the one-year contract during Thursday’s arbitration hearing in Toronto and that the Hawks were seeking a deal of around $2 million.
from Tim Sassone of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
It doesn’t look good as far as the Blackhawks keeping goalie Antti Niemi.
Niemi’s arbitration award will be announced today and multiple sources believe the number will end up well past $3 million, perhaps close to $4 million, which the Hawks couldn’t fit under the salary cap the way the roster stands today.
“I think he’s gone,” one of Niemi’s Hawks teammates said Friday before the start of the team’s third annual convention at the Hilton Chicago.
Another NHL source wondered how the arbitrator couldn’t see to award Niemi the $4 million he is believed to have sought when the Hawks are paying their other goalie, Cristobal Huet, the one that didn’t win the Stanley Cup, a salary of $5.6 million.
“I don’t see how this works out in the Hawks’ favor,” the source said.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Within 48 hours, an arbitrator, who heard evidence from the Blackhawks and netminder Antti Niemi’s agent Thursday morning, will deliver a decision on just how much a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender is worth.
If the arbitrator decides Niemi’s worth much more than $3 million a year, Bowman may have no choice but to walk away from the decision, making Niemi an unrestricted free agent shortly before his 27th birthday.
The Blackhawks, already over the salary cap and facing a huge salary crunch before the start of training camp, will have 48 hours after the arbitrator’s decision to make up their minds.
There are rumors the ‘Hawks will accept the decision and then try and trade Niemi so they don’t end up losing a top asset without getting anything back in return. But the marketplace for goaltenders is soft to begin with, and any team dealing with the Blackhawks, let’s say Philadelphia or San Jose or Washington, all Cup contending teams that could use goaltending depth, will know they’ve got the team over a barrel and will be offering little in return.
“If you don’t have a good case, you don’t go (to arbitration).”
-Bill Zito, agent for Antti Niemi. More on this topic from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.
from Jesse Rogers from ESPN Chicago,
Antti Niemi’s arbitration technically got underway on Tuesday when both sides exchanged written briefs in advance of their hearing on Thursday. All signs point to the Hawks going to arbitration for just the second time with a player (Kyle Calder in 2006) since the current CBA was signed.
As Niemi’s agent, Bill Zito, put it to me on Tuesday, this is an atypical arbitration.
“Most arbitrations are a disagreement in a player’s worth,” he said. “In this case, it’s about managing the [salary] cap.”
Sounds like the Hawks want to pay him, they just can’t. But is that entirely true?
First off, Niemi could accept less. Of course, that brings up the question, less than what? It’s simply more about accepting what the Hawks can afford. And therein lies the rub.
There are a number of different ways to go and I guess it’s up to Stan and I to try and find something that makes sense for everybody,” Zito said Wednesday on “The Mully & Hanley Show” on WSCR-AM 670. “Antti would like to stay and like to be a part of this thing and I guess the onus is on us to figure out a way to do it.”
Despite Niemi’s impressive showing during the Hawks’ drive to the Stanley Cup championship, Zito said he’d rather not leave it up to an arbitrator to make sure his client gets a nice raise from his salary of $827,000 last season.
“We’re confident we have a good case, but with that said, there is always risk,” Zito said of the unpredictability of a hearing. “It’s just like going to court ... Did O.J. (Simpson) really not do it?”
from Mike Kiley of Blackhawks Confidential,
The fact that Niemi is among 31 NHLers filing for salary arbitration does prompt the question of how differently his agent, Bill Zito, and the Hawks view the gap between Niemi, a Stanley Cup-winning hero, and Niemi, that guy who has yet to be asked to play a full season in the NHL.
In a perfect world without salary comparisons and so on to drive figures, Niemi deserves somewhere around 3 million a year. How about 4 years, $12 million?
Sounds about right without crunching all the numbers and such that Zito is paid handsomely to do on behalf of his client.
How about 4 years, $16-$20 million, which could be closer to where Zito wants a deal done. He may be asking for 6 to 8 years for all I know. Sounds excessive.
from Michael Traikos ot the National Post,
Niemi earned US$827,000 this season. But after taking over the starting job from Cristobal Huet—Niemi went 26-7-4 with a 2.25 goals-against average in the regular season—the 26-year-old is looking to be paid like a No. 1 netminder after just one year in the league.
The question is: Even if Chicago agrees he is worth the money, can the team afford him?
The NHL’s salary cap is expected to be US$58.8-million next season. And the Blackhawks, who have 14 players signed through 2010-11, have already used up about US$58-million.
That does not include performance bonuses—such as the US$1.3-million bonus that captain Jonathan Toews earned for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Already there has been talk of burying Huet (US$5.625-million) in the minors. And there are rumours that any or all of Patrick Sharp (US$3.9-million), Kris Versteeg (US$3.083-million) and Brent Sopel (US$2.3-million) could be traded. But expecting Niemi to bite the bullet and accept a discount, says Zito, is not an option.
“He’s going to get his money,” Zito said. “But the term is going to have something to do with it too.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
There always has been this connection between the now budding and surprising stars, Antti Niemi and Ville Leino, but it wasn’t supposed to be about playing for championships.
They were just hoping to get an opportunity to play.
Leino was confident enough in his own abilities to figure he was going to make something of himself with the Detroit Red Wings. But he’ll be honest and tell you: “I wasn’t sure about Antti. I thought he was pretty good, but it’s a lot harder for goalies. There’s only so many jobs.”
Turns out he was wrong and he was wrong.
Leino didn’t factor much with the Red Wings, who tried to turn him into something he wasn’t and Niemi is a very good reason why the Chicago Blackhawks are this close to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
In what has been a riveting and consistently entertaining NHL postseason thus far, the oddest back story of all focuses on the respective starters in net. And how a series of here-to-fore lightly regarded goaltenders are facing each other, while the big names either missed the playoffs altogether or were quickly dispatched.
Of the 100 goaltenders listed by salary on stats website nhlnumbers.com, Niemi ranks 57th (at $827,000 U.S.) while Leighton is dead last (No. 100). Leighton’s price tag is $600,000, but because the Flyers grabbed him on waivers, they were responsible for just half.
Even in today’s inflated NHL salaries, both represent exceptional value.
from Bob Verdi of ChicaoBlackhawks.com,
I have in my gnarled and arthritic hands a crinkled clipping from the august New York Times, dated April 16, 2010. The headline is as follows: “Entering Playoffs With Many Stars, Just Not In Goal.”
Surprise! The story is about the Blackhawks and their unknown soldier between the pipes, Antti Niemi, who went from Pelicans Lahti to Rockford IceHogs to No. 1 in Chicago, earns only $827,00 for manning what arguably is the most important position in sports, yet is so green he might as well be a vegetable.
The Times, which has earned numerous Pulitzer Prizes, was not breaking any news here. Most experts throughout the National Hockey League concurred that the Blackhawks would be vulnerable in net, and truth be told, so did thousands of nervous fans in Chicago.
from Tim Sassone of Between The Circles,
Antti Niemi let in a bad goal, a crusher as it turned out, early in the third period with the Hawks leading 1-0. J.P. Dumont’s soft toss at the net from past the right faceoff circle bounced past Niemi, changing the momentum of the game.
Wasn’t this every Hawks fans’s nightmare, a bad goal costing a game? Only the goalie wasn’t Cristobal Huet.
The Hawks might have won 1-0 if not for Niemi’s bad goal.
more and watch the talked about goal…
from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,
Asked when he would be able to forget the disappointment of giving up a game-winner with home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs on the line in order to focus on the Predators, Niemi didn’t blink.
“Today, tonight, before tomorrow,’’ Niemi said. “I am almost as ready as I can be.’‘
A hopeful hockey city can think optimistically along with Niemi, but truthfully nobody really knows for sure. Experience removes doubt and Niemi has none. His playoff start in Game 1 Friday will be his first.
To say Niemi is the biggest factor in how long the Blackhawks’ postseason lasts is like saying April showers are key to May flowers. Nothing has been more obvious about this 112-point season since coach Joel Quenneville installed Niemi as the goaltender March 28 after Cristobal Huet lost his confidence, then his job.