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2010 Stanley Cup Finals: We should never have doubted Antti Niemi

Image (1) Niemi10-thumb-250x362-13299.jpg for post 2029

We all questioned him, admit it.

When the Chicago Blackhawks made the public decision to not go after a goaltender at the trade deadline and to instead stick with Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi, we panned the Hawks and said they were bonkers.

There was no way this team could win the Stanley Cup with either of those two goaltenders in net.

I guess we were wrong, huh?

Niemi may not have been the most stellar example of Stanley Cup goaltending against the Hawks, but through four rounds he was exactly what his team needed him to be. He was steady, he was consistent and on occasion he stole a game or two with some absolutely outstanding performances.

Tonight against the Flyers, he may not have been at his very best but he made the big saves when they matter most.

Now, he’s the first Finnish goaltender to lead his team to the Stanley Cup and he did it as a rookie. Before this season, he was never expected to be this important to the Blackhawks but when he was called upon he approached the task like he always does: calm, collected and determined.

Every player on his team says that no one works harder than Niemi, that nothing ever seems to rattle him. He’s not an emotional goaltender, and his ability to bounce back from bad games is perhaps one of the best reasons the Hawks ultimately won it all.

“So many tough moments, and even from Game 1 of our first series against Nashville, people question you every single game as a rookie goaltender,” Jonathan Toews said after the game when asked about his goaltender. “Everyone knows how big of a position, how important it is to have a great goaltender in the postseason. Everyone questioned his experience and his ability to deal with that pressure.”

Still, Toews says he never lost faith in Niemi even through the ups and downs of the season and the playoffs.

“But I think we all believed in him. We all knew he was that type of guy. And all the accolades on good days that were thrown at him didn’t seem to bother him either. He just kept playing, enjoyed the game and was a huge, huge part of our team.”