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

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Niemi10.jpgWe 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.”

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.