Sharks spotlight: Antti Niemi


Sharks spotlight: Antti Niemi

Editor's note: Over the next month, Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz and Postgame Live reporter Brodie Brazil will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Sharks spotlight -- the series
Sharks spotlight: Antti NiemiAge: 28 GIn his second season with the Sharks, goalie Antti Niemi posted34-22-9 record with a 2.42 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 68games. His six shutouts tied him for fifth in the league. In five playoffgames, Niemi was 1-4 with a 2.45 GAA and .914 SP.Kurz says: Niemi was never able to get on the kind ofroll he enjoyed in the second half of the 2010-11 season, despite starting thefinal 21 games. On several occasions, Niemi and coach Todd McLellan said thatthe more Niemi plays, the more comfortable he gets and the better he is butit just didnt happen this season. Although his numbers werent terrible, Niemiallowed far too many weak and deflating goals that cost the Sharks points downthe stretch. It carried over into the playoffs, when he was very good for longstretches, but still maddeningly inconsistent. Niemi also must shoulder some ofthe Sharks penalty kill failures, as its now been two seasons with Niemibetween the pipes that that unit has been poor.SLIDESHOW: Grading the Sharks
Brodie says: Therewas much concern over Niemis health heading into the season, as theremoval of a cyst kept him out near the end of training camp and through thefirst 3 games. However, all uncertaintywas put to rest, as the Finnish netminder returned healthy and stayed that wayfor the rest of the campaign.To see how Niemi correlated with the team this season, Ithink its beneficial to contrast his monthly GAA vs. win-loss record. October(2.65, 4-2-0), higher average but offense wins games. November(2.12, 5-2-1), definitely successful.December (2.37, 6-3-3), goodmonth for a higher workload. January (1.96, 7-3-1), goalie making adifference in the best stretch of the season.February (3.42, 3-5-1), worstmonth of the season defense clearly a challenge. March(2.20, 7-7-3), highest working month offense clearly a challenge. April(3.28, 2-0-0) small sample size, difficult to judge crazy games. April Playoffs (2.45, 1-4), PK didnt help average, and we all know Sharks hadtrouble scoring goals.In summary, you can see portions where the goaltender savedhis team. But on the contrary, with theexception of October when goals were plentiful, the team did not regularlymuster up enough tallies to save its goaltender. Its quite clear that February was Niemis(and the collective teams) worst month, when preventing goals was aproblem. However he personally reboundednicely in March during the teams busiest month: although thats when the teamhad challenges scoring their own goals.2012-13 expectationsKurz says: Niemi is one of a number of Sharks players thatwill have to improve if the team wants any chance of battling for the PacificDivision title. If he falters early next season, he could conceivably end upseeing less playing time if the coaching staff wants to give Thomas Greiss orAlex Stalock a more serious look at being the starter.In fact, the Sharks organizational goaltending depth couldlead to trying to move Niemi, who still has three years remaining on hiscontract. There would likely be some interested parties, too, as Niemi has alreadyproven he can lead a team to a Stanley Cup championship.Related: Niemis stats splits game logs
Brodie says: TheSharks ultimately have expectations of winning a Stanley Cup, which cannot bedone in this day and age without a red-hot goalie. The question you must then ultimately ask yourself:does Antti Niemi have the capability to perform at that seemingly unbelievablelevel? My feeling is, absolutely. He has done it before.Part of what could help Niemi, are the 5 but mostly 4skaters in front of him. Certainly thepenalty kill was San Joses Achilles heel during both the regular andpostseasons. And its not to say thatNiemi could have bailed his special teams out a few more times just thattheres also that expression of hanging someone out to dry.Im torn on how to manage time between San Joses goaliesnext year. On one hand, Id like Niemito get comfortable and conditioned, with all the high minutes he and thecoaching staff desire. On the flipside,the development of Thomas Greiss (and others) are very important, in terms oftheir value and contributions. The jobof a backup does entail coming in when the team needs you, but it cant beconsidered a recipe for success to go weeks, and even a month between starts,as Greiss did.Bottom line: Niemi is the guy, and he will be expected to dothe heavy lifting once again.Up next: Daniel Winnik

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Joonas Donskoi’s first goal of the season all but sealed the Sharks’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was also a long time coming, too. The Finnish forward finished a chance for the first time in 28 regular season games, 33 if you include his goal-less postseason. He last scored on January 7, when Patrick Marleau was a Shark and San Jose still held a share of the Pacific Division lead.

He struggled mightily after that, largely due to injury. Donskoi separated his shoulder not once, but twice last season, and revealed to The Athletic this week that he also dealt with “foot issues.” He spent over a month on injured reserve and managed just three assists in his final 22 games as a result.

With health on his side, Donskoi’s returned to his rookie year form. Through six games, he's registered three points, all at even strength. That’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead, despite the fact he’s played nearly four minutes less per game at even strength than the captain.

He’s done a lot in less ice time, scoring five-on-five points at a higher rate per 60 minutes than any player on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s done a lot against lesser competition, too, taking advantage of his assignments in Peter DeBoer’s bottom six forward group.

That’s an important development, given the disappearance of San Jose’s depth scoring last season. Only four Sharks forwards cracked 40 points last season, and one of them is in Toronto. Most damning, though, is that the same number managed to score 30 or more points last year. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, by contrast, had eight forwards score 30 points in the regular season.

It’s still early in the season, but Donskoi’s underlying numbers indicate this level of play is built to last. His personal shooting percentage is below his career-high, and the Sharks are scoring on a reasonable 6.52% of their shots with Donskoi on the ice in five-on-five situations. That’s only half-a-percentage point higher than San Jose’s rate during Donskoi’s injury-riddled 2016-17.

Donskoi will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, but after struggling so much last season, it appears the 25-year-old is back on track. If the Sharks are to improve on last season, they desperately need depth scorers.

Thanks to Donskoi’s resurgence, they just might have found one.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip


NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.


Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.