Is Blackhawks' Antti Niemi Ready for Starting Position?

Tyler JuranovichCorrespondent IIIFebruary 15, 2010

CHICAGO - JANUARY 03: Antti Niemi #31 of the Chicago Blackhawks takes a break during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on January 3, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Ducks 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


Another win by the Blackhawks, their fourth straight, and I'm beginning to believe that Antti Niemi is starting to shed his back-up role as a goaltender.

Neimi has looked sharp in net the past four games. He has come up huge in two shootouts, one in Columbus and one at home against Atlanta. While his goals against average has risen during this four game stretch, he has won every single game and has stopped 11 of 12 skaters in a shootout. Most importantly he is doing what every team needs their goalie to do. Come up big in clutch plays.

Quennville has obvious faith in Niemi, starting him two days in a row when usually he switches between both goaltenders. It's a sign that Niemi might have moved up in the depth chart.

“He’s playing well,” coach Joel Quenneville told the Hawks’ team Web site after the game. “He’s coming off three straight wins. It’s an easy decision. We’re off for a long time. Playing back-to-back. Give him a chance to keep going.”

The Hawks have a two week break now, and that means Huet will not have played a game in almost a month. If Quennville keeps Niemi in net it after the break it could be a sign that he feels more comfortable with Niemi starting in the playoffs.

If that's the case I would feel so much more comfortable with the Hawks chances of going deep into the playoffs. With Niemi playing well do the Hawks need to make a trade to get a goaltender?

Getting rid of Huet would seriously open up some much needed cap room, but the Hawks don't need another starting goaltender if they have faith that Niemi is that man for the job.