A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Fishing for Fins: Sharks add Niemi

Sharks fans everywhere scoffed at acquiring Antti Niemi throughout the summer and they all were forced to eat crow Sept. 2 when the Sharks officially announced the signing of the Finnish goalie.

San Jose now boasts a goaltending tandem of also Fin, Antero Niittymaki and Niemi as opposed to last year’s twosome of Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.

But you won’t see any partying in the streets. Reaction everywhere on Sharks forums is negative and pessimistic. Of course, being a Sharks fan, the only thing you know is bad luck and seeing the glass half empty.

Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks

Playoff Proven

The addition of a Stanley Cup-winning goalie is an upgrade over Niittymaki first and foremost. You can argue technique and positioning all day, but Niemi has shown he can make the big saves when called upon.

Niittymaki has only played in two NHL playoff games and looked awful (.828 save percentage, five goals against in 73 minutes). That isn’t a big enough sample size to judge him on playoff play, but it puts him in the same boat as Thomas Greiss.

Previous all-star Nabokov was an OK playoff performer (.907 save %, 2.56 GAA), but couldn’t steal enough games by himself to bring his team to the promise land. Some fans have even dared to bring up how good he is in the regular season. Are you kidding me? Every Sharks fan should know by now how much the regular season means.

But didn’t Niemi have a great defense?

The biggest argument against Niemi and his Stanley Cup ring is that he had a spectacular defense in front of him. That’s very true, and playing for the Sharks will be a completely different experience.

However, we don’t truly know how that defense affected Niemi’s psyche. Maybe knowing he had a defense in front of him, he didn’t play up to his potential and relied on the defense to clear out his gigantic rebounds. Now backstopping an average defense in San Jose could spark him to step up his game to higher level.

Pure speculation but it’s something to think about.

Lame Argument

Niittymaki supporters like to mention that “when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.” This is an argument I love to hate. When any goalie is “on” they can be unstoppable. And if you have to use that argument at all in the first place, it means the goalie is inconsistent.

I wonder if Niitty is "on" in this picture.

The puzzle is still incomplete

One odd reaction to the Niemi addition is that people seem to think this is the roster the Sharks will enter the season with — three NHL starting goalies on one team with another star prospect (Alex Stalock) in the minors.

There is no way this team stays the way it is now. I think some trade will happen before the season starts — probably involving Greiss — to acquire a defenseman.

Ryane Clowe is a name that’s been thrown around numerous times for a package deal to bring in a top-4 defenseman. Something does have to be done about the defense, it doesn’t matter if Patrick Roy were the Sharks goalie, the defense has to improve.

San Jose lacks a shutdown pair, and unfortunately, Huskins-Wallin just won’t cut it (haha).

I’m not a fan of the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray pair, just because I’m not a Murray fan. I think he’s a pylon who’s only good for one big hit a game. He was terrible in the playoffs, always being a step behind the play and leaving a man open.

There’s been rumors of the Sharks trading Greiss + other assets to Philadelphia for Braydon Coburn, and other whisperings of a potential offer sheet for Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal.

"Jesus" Greiss' days may be numbered in San Jose

Either would be an upgrade over Murray, but those may be forever pipe dreams.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson must know the defense needs an upgrade, so I wouldn’t fret about the Sharks defense as it is now. It will change — hopefully sooner than later.

-Ray

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 60

Quite the Nab-tacular performance for the Sharks as they beat the Nashville Predators 4-3. There was no doubt goalie Evgeni Nabokov was the most spectacular player on the ice. He made 35 saves in the victory.

The Sharks were sloppy all night with their puck management, continuing to struggle with giveaways. These weren’t just harmless neutral zone giveaways — these were giveaways right in front of Nabokov. I don’t know how Nabby made some of the saves he did, but all the guys should treat him out to a week of meals and the finest Russian vodka you can find.

Dan Boyle made his return and showed no signs of rust. Coach Todd McLellan kept Derek Joslin up as a seventh defenseman just in case Boyle struggled. He didn’t and Boyle played nearly 20 minutes (19:10).

Despite the turnovers, Nashville couldn’t put the Sharks away. The Preds took the lead three times, and each time the Sharks came back to tie it.

Dany Heatley scored two power play goals and now leads the NHL in goals on the man advantage with 14. That means almost half of Heater’s goals come on the power play. I don’t know what to say about that. Should it be a concern he needs opponents to be shorthanded to score? I don’t think so now that I think about it. That’s actually pretty good. Keep him on the ice for the full two minutes now. Ha.

I'm picturing myself giving the 21 gun salute. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Brad Staubitz and Rob Blake were the other goal-scorers. Blake’s marker put him ahead of Doug Wilson on the all-time goals for defenseman list.

Sharks commentator Randy Hahn threw out an interesting statistic last night. Prior to the game, Nashville was 10-0 when Joel Ward scored a goal, and the Sharks were 9-0 when they have multiple fights in a game. Guess what? Both happened and the Sharks improve to 10-0 with more than one boxing match.

Unfortunately, both fights were Jody Shelley getting railed on by Wade Belak. It was ugly. Shelley wasn’t throwing — just hanging on. Oh well. It worked in the bigger picture.

Airheads

Nashville fans talk a lot of smack for no apparent reason. They use the “you suck” chants more than any other team. Why? Your team is the face of perennial mediocrity. Instead of insulting opponents, maybe you should insult your own team for blowing leads.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  NSH 20; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs, Monday. It won’t be entirely different from playing the Western Conference now that Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dion Phaneuf are there.

–Ray

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment