Ratto: Simple task for Niemi in Game 4

April 21, 2011, 7:52 pm
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April 21, 2011
Ray Ratto
LOS ANGELES -- Antti Niemi, who knew that his job as the Sharks starting goaltender is safe for one more evening, waxed expansive when asked if he was excited for the new opportunity.Yeah. Sure, he effused.Then again, what was there for him to say? Hes hit a brief bad patch, as he has in the past, but he is still the capo di tutti capos in the Sharks goaltending heap.
But for him to break the rut he has been in, having surrendered eight goals in 80 minutes, he has to prevent the most disturbing part of his run giving up goals in great unsightly blobs.Niemi gave up two scores (to Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson) in 3:30 in Game 2, two in 13 seconds in the first period of Game 3 (to Willie Mitchell and Kyle Clifford) and two more in 2:22 (to Michal Handzus and Brad Richardson) at the end of the first and start of the second.In doing so, he turned his own struggles into two successive avalanches, one of which the Sharks were fortunate to overcome.REWIND: Unbelievable! Sharks battle for Game 3 OT win
The league, though, has had a lot of instances of quick goal turnarounds throughout the eight series. There have been two instances of multiple goals inside of a minute of the Canucks-Blackhawks series, eight inside two minutes in Ducks-Predators, three in the just-expired Red Wings-Coyotes, three in Flyers-Sabres, three inside of two minutes in Capitals-Rangers, one in Canadiens-Bruins and three from Penguins-Lightning.Thats 26 in 30 games, an extraordinary number by any accounting, and while that wont make Niemi feel any happier, it does seem to be a bit of a trend.Im not sure why, Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of the phenomenon-ette. I think maybe the lesson there is not to lose your focus. Its sort of a golden rule after as goal is scored to really pay attention to the next shift because its so very very important. But why this is happening now all over the league, Im not sure.But it is, and if the Sharks intend to take a choke-slam to this series, the two multiple-goal flurries they had in Game 3 wouldnt be a bad way to go. Nor would getting and holding a lead for awhile.