Antti Niemi has had a rough couple of seasons, but just when it seemed the guy couldn’t catch a break he turned around and dazzled us all.
On Tuesday January 15th, the Montreal Canadians beat the Florida Panthers 5-1. Niemi, the goaltender that evening, set a franchise record of 52 saves. That number doesn’t even sound real, but it should.
Until 2016, Niemi had been a decent NHL goaltender. He started his career undrafted and was picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008 where he would begin to flourish. In 2009, Niemi started in net the second game of that season’s opening series and (ironically enough) shut out the Florida Panthers with 23 saves.
In 2010, Niemi wasn’t only Chicago’s first goalie since 1996 to earn a post season shutout, but was also Chicago’s first goalie since 1974 to snag two. This was also the year he became the first Finnish goalie to win the Stanley Cup, Safe to say, the 2009-10 season was a busy one.
After his stint in Chicago, Niemi- now “Nemo”- found himself in sunny San Jose. Admittedly, he struggled off and on, but he kept his head held high. In 2014, he even went on to help win a Bronze medal for Finland in the Winter Olympics.
The following season, he was picked up by Dallas, where he alternated between being the starter and the backup. During 2015-16 season, he started for the Stars during the post season, but the team sadly fell short. In 2016-17 season, the team missed the post season entirely and Niemi was placed on waivers.
Dallas placing Niemi on wavers seemed to spark a domino effect of his circumstances growing steadily worse. Missing shots and losing game after game, he was ping-ponged from Pittsburgh to Florida before luckily being grabbed by Montreal.
This season Niemi has quietly started a comeback. His amazing 52 saves against the Panthers hasn’t been the only time he racked up such a number, considering in late December he made a whopping 45 saves in a win against the Dallas Stars.
Whether he feels he has something to prove or if he is just finally heating up for the Habs, Antti Niemi is certainly turning some heads and improving his season record. As of the Tuesday match his record now sits at 8-4-1, 3.63 GAA, and a .897 save percentage.
Header from The Athletic.