Sharks Goaltending- Why Antero Niittymaki's Been So Hot, and Antti Niemi Has Not

Michael DeSantisSenior Analyst INovember 20, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Antero Nittymaki #30 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion on November 9, 2010 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In the offseason, Sharks GM Doug Wilson made a few transactions to replace long-time netminder Evgeni Nabokov.  These moves included signing 30-year-old Fin Antero Niittymaki, and eventually Stanley-Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi.  Many Sharks fans got really excited with the addition of Niemi.  However, Niemi hasn't lived up to Sharks fans' hopes and expectations.  Meanwhile, Niittymaki has been anything and everything the Sharks have asked for.

At this point in the season, Niittymaki is 7-1-3 with a Sv.% of .919, and a GAA of 2.08, which was after his worst game of the season, a 4-3 OT loss to the Avalanche.  Otherwise, he's been rock solid, and has allowed three goals in a game only three times so far. 

Niemi hasn't been so solid.  He sports a 2-4-1 record, with a sub-par .878 Sv.% and 3.91 GAA, nearly four goals a game.  In one game, he didn't even last nine minutes, when he allowed three goals in five shots in a 4-0 loss to the Flames.  Sharks fans have been really dissapointed with his play.

Everyone wonders why Niittymaki is playing so great, and Niemi has been dismal.  It has to do with their former teams.  Niittymaki came from the Flyers and Lightning, whose not-so-great/poor defenses are not as good as the Sharks' decent defense.  The Sharks' average D has allowed Niittymaki to play better than he has in the past. 

Meanwhile, Niemi, coming from the Cup-winning Blackhawks, has had perhaps the most solid defense in the league in front of him.  Any goalie behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson will put up fantastic numbers.  The Sharks defense is far inferior to the Hawks defense, but is still not all that bad.  Niemi has been lousy though, and Niitty has improved greatly.

The goaltending relation can possibly change if Niemi starts to get hotter or if Niittymaki cools down, but for now, Niittymaki will continue to rightfully be the main goaltender for the San Jose Sharks.