Since I am a huge Antti Niemi fan, and since the loss of his contract left me feeling a small hole in my heart, I figured it worthy to update everyone on his performance this year. After having a rough start which could have been expected given his situation, Niemi has turned the corner and is now the main cause of San Jose's run to the top of the conference. It was not long ago that the Sharks were bottom feeders, behind the Hawks and behind most of the league. Now they are 2 points away from second place in the conference. This is greatly due to the awakening of Niemi who has had 17 consecutive starts and only lost 2 of those games. I am glad to hear it, and send a slight stare in SB's direction. Although Crawford is playing some great net these days, was this another missed deal for Stan? I am glad to see Crawford get his day, but I still miss good old Antti. The Sharks have been quoted as stating his puck stopping abilities are among the best in the NHL, that his work ethic is second to none and that he is becoming the foundation of the team.
At the beginning of the season I picked a Shark's - Flyer's finals with the Sharks getting the edge. I still stand by that and with the addition of more Hawks to each of these teams, that possibility grows. I also still stand on my Vancouver not making it past the 2nd round prediction as well. Nick Boynton was added to the Flyers line-up today, not much of a loss for the Hawks there. With Leddy and Hendry becoming common fixtures on the roster there hasn't been much room for him, and I felt better with Cullimore anyway. Ben Eager has been a welcomed face in the Sharks roster, as if they needed another fast and large forward, and just recently Sopel was picked up by the Habs. Lots of movement for ex-Hawks these days.
More updates. Dallas is currently down a goal to Nashville as they go at it in the 2nd. Those are 2 teams currently tied with the Hawks. I would like to see Nashville hold on for that win and then fall to the Blue Jackets tomorrow. Also, LA and Colorado are about to hit the ice. If the Avs can edge the Kings it will give the Hawks a shot at 5th place tomorrow when they take on the hot Phoenix Coyotes.
If the Hawks can keep up the strong play seen in Thursday night's game I think they have a good chance against the Yotes. The keys will obviously be staying out of the box, capitalizing on chances and for Pete's sake, using all 4 lines effectively.
Something I didn't get around to last post was giving another shout out to Frolik for his play in the game. 30 games without a goal is brutal, but he had prime chances and made some huge defensive plays again. His poise and all around smart play has been a nice addition to the team. Last time we saw Crawford get a shutout he rebound right back with another. Heres to that happening again tomorrow.