Chicago Blackhawks: Antti Niemi Gets Last Laugh, Former Hawks in Playoffs

Joe FaviaCorrespondent IIMay 8, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 24:  Goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks skates toward the bench during warm-up prior to the NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 24, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Sharks 4-3 in shootout overtime.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Looking back on the contributions of the players that left after last season it was expected that they could do great things with their new teams this season.

 Some have indeed gotten it done with there respective clubs, others did not have the impact that was expected.

 Dustin Byfuglien who was one of the key catalysts of the Blackhawks' run to the Cup, was on an Atlanta Thrashers team that finished 12th in the Eastern Conference, and was 13 points out of the final playoff spot. Byfulgien was a key player for Atlanta though as he made his first All-Star Game.

Andrew Ladd was also on that Atlanta team. He was named captain and proved that he was one of the hardest players to lose on the Blackhawks overall. One could argue that his loss was the biggest of any of the players.

 Adam Burish was on the poor Dallas Stars that were the odd man out with the ninth seed. The last game loss to the Minnesota Wild did them in. Burish who was a fan favorite was on the most hated team by Blackhawks fans on that day.

 John Madden did not make the playoffs, but he was on the other end of the coin with the Minnesota Wild. Madden did not play in that big game though. Colin Fraser was on the bottom fever Oilers who were never a player for the playoffs this season.

Brent Sopel did not stay around in Hot-lanta in what would be a failure of a second half as he was shipped to 'Hockey Mecca' in Montreal. The Habs did not enjoy the playoff success that is expected losing in seven games to the Boston Bruins. Sopel played strong though, and has become a strong post-season threat.

 Kris Versteeg looked like he had a good shot at getting another shot at the Cup, but the Flyers were unable to get past the second round. It was better than Versteeg's first team on the season in Toronto who did not even sniff getting a playoff spot.

Lastly are Ben Eager and Antti Niemi. Both players are on a San Jose Sharks team that are looking as good as ever. If they can advance past the Red Wings it could be destiny for the two former Blackhawks.

Eager has given the toughness and edge that the Sharks need. Though he has not been big on the stat sheet, he is still a positive force on the ice. Niemi is looking to prove to the hockey world that he not a one-hit wonder, and could get the last laugh in San Jose with bringing a title to two different towns in two years.

Will these two Hawks'; along with former Blackhawk Doug Wilson (Sharks GM) bring the title to Northern California?

For many Blackhawk fans the Sharks have their last connection and vested rooting interest. But, with the Sharks and Blackhawks past rivalry of recent years it will not be easy. But, the fact that they play Detroit and possibly Vancouver makes it a touch easier.