Updates: SCF – Previewing the Blackhawks’ Goalie(s)

In the third and final position preview leading up to tonight’s Game One of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago, I will turn my attention to the Blackhawks’ netminders.  If there is anyone as unsung as Michael Leighton in these playoffs, it is Antti Niemi, the goaltender in the Windy City.  The Blackhawks’ biggest question mark this entire season has been the abilities of their goaltenders, but to Chicago’s credit, that hasn’t been a problem at all in these playoffs.  Let’s hope the Flyers can put some doubt back into the Blackhawk faithful in this series when it comes to the men who tend net.

GOALTENDERS:

Starter: Antti Niemi

Back-up: Cristobal Huet

Who to watch in goal for the Blackhawks:

1.  Antti Niemi. The major question mark that has surrounded the Blackhawks this season has been in goal.  Sure, the team boasts some of the best talent in the league from top to bottom, but if the man in net allows 3-4 goals a game, chances are your team won’t be all that successful (just ask the Washington Capitals).  Thankfully for Chicago, Niemi has provided an absolutely dominant stop-gap for this club and has guided them to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992.  After looking somewhat shaky at times in the ‘Hawks first two series against Nashville and Vancouver, Niemi looked like a seasoned, superstar goaltender in the Western Conference Finals against the top team in the West in the regular season, the San Jose Sharks.  Niemi paced the Blackhawks in each game, seemingly having an answer for anything and everything that San Jose threw at him, regardless of the situation.  To crack Niemi, the Flyers will need to do something that they have already done to Martin Brodeur, Tuukka Rask, and Jaroslav Halak: get pucks to Niemi’s feet, and crash the net.  The Orange and Black will have to sustain some consistent pressure and get Niemi off his game, otherwise, he could provide such a dominant force that Chicago may just cruise in this series.  Remember this: San Jose was peppering Niemi with upwards of 40 shots a game in the four game Western Final.  The Flyers will likely only throw somewhere between 25 and 30 shots at Niemi, so their shot selection is crucial and the majority of their shots must be quality.

Statistical Leaders for the Blackhawks Goaltenders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

GAMES STARTED: Antti Niemi (16)

WINS: Niemi (12)

GOALS AGAINST: Niemi (2.33)

SAVE PERCENTAGE: Niemi (.920)

SHUTOUTS: Niemi (2)


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