Sunday, March 6, 2011

San Jose Sharks: Give Antti Niemi A Rest

San Jose Sharks' goalie Antti Niemi made his 21st straight start in net on Saturday, a loss to the Dallas Stars, which snapped the Sharks' 8-game win streak. Niemi was 17-4 during that span of 21 games.

Is it time to get Niemi some rest then?

Not that he needs it. Niemi has been the main reason for the Sharks' surge to the top of the Pacific division and 3rd place in the Western Conference. But isn't it time? It's almost unheard of for a goalie to go 20+ straight starts in the NHL these days.

But why stop someone while he's hot, right? Niemi is 17-4 in his last 21 games, hasn't complained a bit, and still looks agile and alert as if he just had a night off.

The possibility of wearing him out before the playoffs still lingers, and that would be the only reason to give him a night off.

The Sharks have been starting Niemi in so many consecutive starts not because they want to, although if you ask them now they'd agree, but because they have to.

The loss of back-up starting goalie, and one-time co-starter, Antero Niittymaki, to injury is what has the Sharks in this position in the first place (the position of being 1st in the Pacific division). Niittymaki's injury has led to Niemi becoming the full-time starter, and from there it's been nothing but "winning" (thank you Charlie Sheen..).
Even if the Sharks wanted to rest Niemi for a night, they couldn't. The back-up for Niemi when Niittymaki went out was stud phenom goalie Alex Stalock. Unfortunately, Stalock had season-ending surgery after injuring his left leg. Another blow to any thought of Niemi getting rest.

You can make the judgement whether these happenings were good or bad for the Sharks. Did I mention they were 17-4 in Niemi's 21 straight starts?

But now Niittymaki is back, activated on Sunday from the IR.

Do the Sharks rest Niemi now?

Yes...for one game...then it's back to Niemi...

Niemi is the driver of this bus. With Niemi's consistency in net, comes Sharks' consistency in the win column.

Keep Niemi in net because the more he's there, the more comfortable he is.

Pray it doesn't bite the Sharks back come playoff time.

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