Antti Niemi robbed Todd Bertuzzi in the shootout last night as the San Jose Sharks downed the Detroit Red Wings. The season isn’t four weeks old yet, but once it’s all said and done it’s very likely that Niemi’s leg kick will be among the top saves of the season.
Niemi is the West Coast’s answer to Tim Thomas—or at least the artist formally known as Tim Thomas. He’s a battler, which is hockey-speak for unorthodox. There isn’t a clean cut system or style of play showing. He just does absolutely anything and everything to stop the puck.
It’s controlled chaos in net, and it’s joyous to watch when it’s working. Perfect goaltenders rarely make highlight-reel saves because they’re always in perfect position. Guys like Thomas and Niemi end up on SportsCenter so often because they will overplay a shot, and then somehow make the save despite being desperate and out of position.
Like, say, flat on your stomach as one of the stronger shootout players in the NHL lines out a game-tying goal after deking you out of your jock strap.
Bertuzzi can’t believe that the skills competition won’t be going to a fourth round. By all means, it should have. Yet Niemi somehow managed to stick with the play and showed why he’ll likely finish the year as a Vezina candidate.
Who’s the best goalie in the world right now? To me, it’s not even close. Antti Niemi. He’s on a mission for #SJSharks.
— Pete Jensen (@NHLJensen) October 22, 2013
High praise for someone who can barely buy press on the East Coast.