In three games since the trade deadline, Antti Niemi has helped San Jose gain four of a possible six points by posting a .941 save percentage, allowing just six goals on 102 shots.
Why the marked improvement in play?
In today’s Mercury-News, Niemi hinted it’s easier to relax and focus on the game now that the deadline’s passed and he’s no longer the center of rumors; curiously, this development came after an alleged meeting between some of San Jose’s older players and GM Doug Wilson.
More, from the Merc:
One reason Niemi may still be with the Sharks, according to a report by San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy, is a meeting 24 hours before the trade deadline when a group of the team’s leaders met with Wilson and expressed their preference to have Niemi be part of the push to make the playoffs.
Niemi welcomed that support.
“Yeah, if that’s the case, for sure,” he said. “It makes me feel appreciated here, and it makes me appreciate them even more.”
Logan Couture wasn’t a part of the Wilson meeting, but shared the sentiment anyway.
“Everyone in this dressing room supports [Niemi], and has his back,” Couture said. “We all want to play hard for him because we know how hard he works for us.
“I figured we weren’t going to move him because you lose a goalie like that, you’re just hunting yourself.”
At this point, it’s safe to assume the Sharks — who head into Tuesday’s play three points back of Calgary for third in the Pacific Division — will ride Niemi down the stretch, firmly planting Alex Stalock to the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how the veteran Finnish netminder reacts; the Sharks will soon embark on one of their toughest trips of the season, a seven-game Eastern roadie that sees them play in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the span of 13 nights.