Thu Apr 21 01:34pm EDT
But despite Antero Niittymaki(notes) getting the win in that miraculous Game 3 comeback over the Los Angeles Kings, there's no question Niemi deserves to start Game 4 tonight at Staples Center. Frankly, it'd be a surprise if he doesn't.
First off, he's a comebacker, following up below average performances with standout ones. It was a hallmark of his playoff run with the Chicago Blackhawks right up until June, when both goalies in the Finals were less than stellar.
As Coach Todd McLellan told the Mercury News on Wednesday:
"When you look at (Niemi's) record, when we pulled him throughout the season -- which wasn't very often -- he always responded very well," McLellan said before heading into a meeting with players at the team hotel. "If we go that route, which I think we're leaning toward, we expect him to be very good."
The other aspect is that back-to-back 4-goal games don't undo a 26-5-4 record from Jan. 15 to the end of the regular season. He's the earned the right to be between the pipes; what's remarkable is that even when he's on the bench after a bombing, the Sharks are still playing for him. From the Mercury News, Ryane Clowe(notes) said:
"Nemo's been so good for us all year, he's bailed us out a lot," the forward said. "It was one of those things where we wanted to pick him up and bail him out. That kind of got lost in the shuffle of the comeback -- picking Nemo up was a big deal for us."
As for the Kings, who saw Jonathan Quick(notes) allow six goals, Coach Terry Murray was on defense with LA Kings Insider:
"Heck, look, when you give up five goals in one period, everybody's got to be better. You need a spectacular save. Some of those goals, he had absolutely no chance on. They're dot-to-dot passes, lateral feeds that are for one-timers. That's where you need an extraordinary effort, save. So you don't look at your goaltender and say that he's the reason why anything happened. It's six guys on the ice."
Which goal bounces back the best in this critical Game 4?