2010 NHL free agency: Sharks sign goalie Antti Niemi

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Thumbnail image for Anttiniemiabouttofreeze.jpgWhat was but a report yesterday has come full circle today as the San Jose Sharks have officially signed former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi to a one-year contract. Sharks GM Doug Wilson had this to say about Antti Niemi:

“Antti’s play last season speaks for itself,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “Our goal this summer was to create the best goaltending unit we could and we feel we have successfully done that.”

The worth of the deal is apparently for $2 million. What happens now is that San Jose’s crease gets a bit more cramped next season but far more balanced. While it appeared that San Jose was going to run with Antero Niittymaki and Thomas Greiss in goal, adding Niemi helps make things much easier to balance as you’d have to suspect that Niittymaki and Niemi will provide the 1A/1B kind of goalie tandem while Thomas Greiss could, potentially, be headed to Worcester in the AHL or out of town to another team that needs an experienced backup.

What the Sharks are doing here with Niemi and Niittymaki is making sure that they won’t have a goalie that will run out of gas in the playoffs, an issue you could argue occurred with Evgeni Nabokov in past seasons. Nabokov was the only goalie they’d run with for a complete season and playoffs and by the time April rolled around, at some point, Nabokov would seemingly hit the wall and with it went the Sharks’ hopes to win the Stanley Cup.

The upside to this set up in San Jose now allows us to unveil the Finnish nightmare hybrid name to use when referring to the Sharks goaltending: Antniitty Niemimaki.

Embrace it, try to wrap your vocal cords around it and let the Finnish goodness wash over you.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.