The NHL’s Finnish goaltending brethren is not exactly huge. Currently, there are only six goalies hailing from the Nordic nation, so you’d sorta expect them to all be buddies. Or, at the very least, know who each other are.
[Aside: Canadians are familiar with this. If we inform someone of our nationality, there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll respond with “Oh cool, Canada! Hey, do you know Jeff? He’s from Canada. He’s kinda tall, black hair…”]
This isn’t the case for San Jose’s Antti Niemi and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. According to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News, the two barely know each other.
Niemi and Rinne are both 28, though the Nashville netminder is nine months older and has an extra 79 games in the NHL. The Sharks goalie does remember playing against him a couple times in Finland at age 19 — but that’s about it.
Never teammates, not even in national competition. Didn’t go through the same training program. No contact away from the ice.
“He’s from north Finland,” Niemi explained.
Oooh, snap. Sensing some contempt there from Niemi (who hails from Vantaa, in the south) towards Northern Finland. Kinda like how the rest of Canada looks down on Vancouver as a pot-smoking hippie commune. Well we sure showed them during the riots, didn’t we!
Anyway, back to the goalies for tonight’s game:
— Niemi’s only played in three games after missing the start of the year with a knee cyst. He’s looked okay — registering wins in Boston and New Jersey — but his numbers are pedestrian: 2.63 GAA and .900 save percentage. That said, his 37-save win over Boston on Saturday was easily his best of the season.
— Rinne’s posted solid numbers (2.50 GAA, .924 save percentage) but has been hung out to dry on a number of occasions. He faced 30-plus shots in each of his first four games and was burned for four goals on 16 shots (in the first period) before getting yanked in Vancouver. The Preds allowed an average of 30.6 shots per game last year, but this season they’re up to 33.9. That’s the most in the league.