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Sharks’ Thornton on Niemi: ‘I think he’s the best goalie in the world’

Apr 18, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT


As Brough wrote last week, there is no obvious choice for this year’s Vezina Trophy.

Joe Thornton, though, thinks differently.

The Sharks captain is backing Antti Niemi not just as the best goalie in the NHL — but on the planet.

“You’ve been watching the same as us. He’s been great for a long time,” Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News. “Last night [Tuesday’s 3-2 win over LA] he was great, tonight he was great. Three games ago he was great.

“Every night he gives us a chance to win, and I think he’s the best goalie in the world.”

Jumbo Joe might have a point.

Niemi is enjoying arguably the finest season of his career, leading the NHL in wins (22) while sitting seventh in save percentage (.926) and ninth in GAA (2.12).

Most impressively, he’s done all this as a workhorse, appearing in 39 of San Jose’s 43 games this year.

Only Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (41) has played more games.

The 29-year-old Finn is one of only two goalies with 1,000-plus saves this year (the other is Ryan Miller) and his four shutouts have him one back of league leaders Rinne, Cory Schneider and Mike Smith (all tied with five).

The big question about Niemi’s Vezina candidacy is where he plays.

San Jose often doesn’t drop puck until 10:30 p.m. ET, meaning a lot of voters (in this instance, NHL general managers) don’t get to see him play.

If you don’t think that’s an issue, consider this: Of the last 18 Vezina winners, 17 came from the Eastern Conference. The lone exception was in 2005-06, when Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff won it.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan says Niemi definitely deserves consideration for this year’s Vezina.

“Nemo deserves to be part of that conversation leaguewide when people begin to talk about potential candidates for those awards,” McLellan said. “His numbers speak for themselves.”

  1. sjshark714 - Apr 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    If the season ends today I think he deserves it… though I fear he’s doomed to the same fate as Nabby in ’08

    • stockspyder - Apr 18, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      or 09, or 10.

      In reality, the Sharks closest shot was in 2010 before Andrew Ladd’s 50 footer beat Nabby in Game 2. If they had won Game 2 and evened the series, who knows?

      • sjshark714 - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:42 PM

        I meant his chance to win the Vezina. Nabber was a better candidate in a LOT of people’s eyes, and would’ve given a fresh face to an award Brodeur was probably getting bored with, but that couldn’t overcome the east coast bias.

        That being said, I would happily trade 2 Vezinas for a Cup

      • stockspyder - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        If you are a Shark fan, you have to accept that west coast teams get no love when it comes to major awards as you said.

        The fact that Jumbo won the Hart only speaks to the numbers he was putting up.

        I agree that Nabby’s numbers and tenure was much more polished, but sadly he’ll always be the great regular season goalie that could never outplay his opponent when it really mattered.

  2. sjsharks66 - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Nemo has been a brick wall this season. I am very impressed with how he has played. Hope he keeps it up in the playoffs. He can be the reason the sharks might win it all.

    • joelwrobinson - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      If he doesn’t win it, should Doug Wilson shoulder the blame?

  3. btlpper68 - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    The race for vezina is btwn NIEMI and BOBROVSKY even though I think niemi has been more consistent if the jackets can make the playoffs bobrovsky will win it Becuase the jackets will be in his back

  4. thehighcountrybear - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    He more or less owns the Wings…maybe it’s time Ilitch just sold him some stock to formalize the process!

    If Niemi holds his form, Sharks may surprise…

    but then McLelland would have to cut loose some of that offensive power, drop the suffocating one goal up defensive play, and let them play hockey? Tough call for a defense-minded coach.

  5. sjsharks66 - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Doug Wilson should always get the blame. 😉

  6. hosewater2 - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    Thanks for the opinion Joe…hey, only 5 more games to go then you can just relax and chill as always!

  7. hammerhead5573 - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Ok Im a Hawks fan and realize how important he is to his team. The Hawks would not have won without him. That said , it is hard to say he is the best in the nhl when his stats do not support that. And by the way when the defense allows 30 to 35 sots a game it is hard for even the best goalies to look great.

  8. supr49er - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    He should be a finalist, and probably win, but he won’t. Bob is the only goalie I wouldn’t be upset if he beat out Nemo.

  9. joeyg88 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    I think nemo earned it. as a hawks fan I miss him. don’t come haunt us in the playoffs tho please

  10. bobhpine - Apr 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Peter Laviolette thinks Claude Giroux is the best player in the world. Mitt Romney thinks Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in the world. The Khaleesi thinks the 8,000 unsullied are worth a dragon that she intends to give away to the king of Astapor. I’ll bet all the wine in Kings Landing they’re all wrong.

  11. President Charles Logan - Apr 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    antti niemi was the probably worse goalie to ever win a stanley cup, the only reason he won the cup was because that clown michael leighton in the other end of the ice was worse of course san jose wont have to worry that problem seeing how they’ll never even get a sniff of the finals

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