Antti Niemi

Antti Up: Sharks go back to Niemi for Game 7


The San Jose Sharks have taken a page out of the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending playbook.

(The playoff edition, not the one on how to handle having two No. 1s. That one was terrible.)

In a move eerily similar to Vancouver’s three years ago, the Sharks will give Antti Niemi the start tonight, at home, in Game 7, after he was parked for Game 6 and watched the opposition rally from an 0-3 deficit to even the series at three.

Niemi, held out of Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Kings in favor of Alex Stalock, will now return to the goal much like Roberto Luongo did in the opening round of the ’11 playoffs. Like the current-day Sharks, those Canucks raced out to a 3-0 series lead on Chicago, only to lose three straight — with Luongo getting benched in favor of Cory Schneider in Game 6.

If there’s a bright spot in the narrative for San Jose, it’s this: Luongo stopped 31 of 32 shots in Game 7 as the Canucks beat the ‘Hawks in OT.

The Sharks will need Niemi to put up a similar performance tonight if they hope to avoid the biggest postseason collapse in franchise history. Only three teams in NHL history have rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win the series — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers — and based on how the L.A. offense has been clicking lately, the Kings carry all the momentum into tonight.

Los Angeles has scored 13 goals in the last three games and caught fire on the power play, scoring five times with the man advantage in the last four games. That offensive explosion is a big reason why Niemi goes into Game 7 with very mediocre numbers — a 3.90 GAA and .882 save percentage.

The only goalie with weaker numbers these playoffs? Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback, who was yanked twice in a four-game sweep against Montreal.

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).

Bad news for Boedker: Coyotes won’t face Sens again in 2015-16


Sorry Mikkel Boedker, you won’t get to face the Ottawa Senators again this season.

OK, it could happen if the speedster is traded from the Arizona Coyotes. He could also face the Senators in the unlikely instance that the two teams fight it out in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Beyond those two possibilities, Saturday night was it, and Boedker must have been licking his chops much like an actual coyote.

For the second straight game, Boedker managed a hat trick against the Senators, helping Arizona beat Ottawa 4-3 last night. His third tally stood as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory.

You can watch all three goals in the video above.

It’s oddly fitting that Boedker has three goals this season … against teams not named the Ottawa Senators.

Hey, Tortorella called the Penguins whiners again

John Tortorella

Don’t forget, the Blue Jackets – Penguins rivalry isn’t just about the bitterness between Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky; John Tortorella can fuel the fire, too.

Torts must not have been happy about the one-game suspension that Dubinsky received for cross-checking Crosby, as he channeled his vintage self in essentially calling the Penguins a bunch of whiners.

You can see from this glorious Sportsnet video, Tortorella said: “Pittsburgh whines enough for the whole league.”

(He also said the Blue Jackets weren’t going to whine by … whining. Good stuff.)

As Puck Daddy notes, this isn’t the first time Torts claimed that the Penguins are whiners.

Both the Blue Jackets and Penguins lost their games on Saturday, but clearly some eyes and ears were still focused on their last confrontation.

In case you’re wondering, the two teams next face off in Pittsburgh on Dec. 21.