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Yet another question mark in San Jose? Goaltending

Aug 6, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

Antti Niemi AP

For all the criticism Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau received in the wake of San Jose’s devastating first-round collapse versus the Kings, the role goaltending played in that series should not be ignored.

Simply put, Antti Niemi didn’t perform well enough. The 30-year-old veteran finished the series with an .884 save percentage, allowing 19 goals on 164 shots. After San Jose won the first three contests, he was pulled in Games 4 and 5 before surrendering the crease to Alex Stalock for Game 6, after which he returned for Game 7, the final nail in the Sharks’ coffin.

Not surprisingly, there was talk the Sharks would try and trade Niemi, who was good enough to backstop the Blackhawks to a championship in 2010, as well as earn a Vezina Trophy nomination in 2013, but has had mixed postseason success since coming to San Jose.

Some even wondered if the Sharks might try and sign Ryan Miller, only for that speculation to quickly be cut short.

Ultimately, no changes were made. Niemi, with one year remaining on his contract, and Stalock, armed with a new two-year deal, are expected to compete for the starting role next season.

Stalock is an interesting case. The 27-year-old had great numbers in 2013-14 as Niemi’s backup (1.87 GAA, .932 SV%), but he’s only made 18 career NHL starts, all of them coming last season. Since leaving the University of Minnesota-Duluth, most of his pro games have been in the AHL.

Still, if Sharks general manger Doug Wilson is truly committed to his plan to “turn the team over to the younger core,” he, along with coach Todd McLellan, may be tempted to give Stalock a bit of a head start in the goaltending competition.

  1. justanotherphillyfan - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    The Blackhawks became lucky when the decided to let this goalie go.

    At that time it looked like a stupid move but it turned out perfect for them because he hasn’t played at that level since.
    Bummer for San Jose, who was their best goalie from the last 10 – 15 years ?
    Irbe ?

    • justanotherphillyfan - Aug 6, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      To add on that:

      If San Jose is really rebuilding I think they should try and trade for one of those promising goalie prospects, Montreal (Fucale), Boston (Subban) and Dallas (J. Campbell/T. Thomas) have.
      I can’t see Fucale or Subban become starters at those clubs within 3 years, at San Jose they could serve as a back-up already.

      • bsaures - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        Unless it is hertl or Mueller comin back there is little to no chance of a deal

      • bsaures - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        For fucale atleast

    • sjsharks86 - Aug 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      Yeah it wasn’t like he was a Vezina candidate after the Sharks picked him up or anything, right? Oh wait…
      Get your head out of your a$$

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 6, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Since I don’t follow the Sharks, I can only wonder if there may be an additional factor in his fall off last year.

        Hawks Corey Crawford had been improving, to the point where Patrick Kane said that Corey actually deserved the Con Smythe more. Went backwards last year. Montrael’s goal tending improved last year. What these have in common is that the coach supporting Corey left the hawks for the Habs. I expressed concern about the impact of the coaching change last year on a Yahoo thread, and got dismissive coments.

        Hmmm, Hawks fired the replacement goalie coach after 1 year. Which is an unusually short time without the head coach getting canned as well.

        SO the question is, was there a change in goalie coaches last year for the Sharks?

  2. Jeff&Cass - Aug 6, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    This article is bang-on. Niemi is terrible – he won a Cup with Chicago playing behind one of the best defensive units in recent NHL history… He’s never lived up to expectations in San Jose and the fact that wasn’t the first issue addressed this off season is concerning. Doug Wilson should have went hard after Ryan Miller, who, although may not have a Stanley Cup under his belt, is certainly an improvement from Niemi and could have at least gave SJ a shot at winning in the immediate future. If Niemi is back in net this season, the Sharks are doomed.

    • chief361 - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      ask the blues how that experiment worked out.

  3. faulkingallstar - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    Niemi was pretty bad all season and horrible in the playoffs. He has probably the worst rebound control of any goalie in the nhl. So many times their will be a slow floater which should be handled with ease but then Niemi will do something stupid like smack it with his blocker and next thing you know its 5 feet up in the air and theres total chaos in front of the net usually leading to a goal. He also lets in tons of soft goals all the time which totally deflates a team especially one as mentally soft as the sharks. Trade Niemi, get a promising young goalie to backup a much more predictable and consistent Alex Stalock

  4. jkaflagg - Aug 7, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Don’t think Niemi is a terrible goalie but the Sharks goalie situation has always been unsettled – Nabobkov had some great regular seasons and even occasional playoff success but could never quite close the deal. Would be a good idea to give Stalock some more starts to see what they really have, and also to continue to develop their goalies in the system and look around for teams that have too many young goalies (like LA w/ Bernier last season). You never know who is going to grab the job – remember that Quick was a #3 draft pick by LA but outplayed Bernier (a #1 pick) for the job.

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