Antti Niemi‘s play has been sub-par since the calendar turned to 2016 and now, with just a handful of games left in the regular season, there’s a real chance he heads into the playoffs as Dallas’ No. 2 netminder.
But he’s not about to lose his cool over it. From the Dallas Morning-News:
Niemi has been struggling since Jan. 1. He has a 3.53 GAA and. 874 save percentage, among the worst numbers in the league in that span. Compare that to his career numbers of 2.43 and .914, and you can see the cause for alarm.
But Niemi said he won’t panic.
“You don’t want to be too emotional about it,” he said. “I don’t think I have played bad. I know I am giving up three or four goals, and that’s too much. But I watch the film and I don’t think it looks bad. I don’t think I’m making obvious mistakes.”
Niemi’s saying all the right things publicly, but it’s hard to imagine he’s not concerned about the situation at hand. He’s started just once in Dallas’ last 10 games and, with only seven left before the playoffs, the signs point to Kari Lehtonen being the Stars’ starter when the postseason opens.
Which would make for an interesting dynamic.
Should Niemi go in as the No. 2, Lehtonen will probably be looking over his shoulder. Niemi’s won a Stanley Cup, been to another Western Conference final and has 62 total games of playoff experience on his resume.
Lehtonen? Just eight games. And he’s never been out of the first round.
While this probably isn’t the “1a-1b” scenario GM Jim Nill envisioned when he acquired Niemi this summer, it is the reality of the situation. And it means goaltending will be a story for Dallas at a crucial stage of the year.