The Dallas Stars experienced a complete 180 of their 2014-2015 play Tuesday night when they faced off against the Anaheim Ducks.
Instead of reverting to their former ways and taking an early lead only to surrender it in the end, the Stars played the role of comeback kids. They trekked back from a 3-0 hole and defeated the Ducks by a 4-3 margin.
One of the main factors of the downfall as well as the recovery was the goaltender in the crease, Antti Niemi.
It has been a while since the Dallas Stars have possessed two competent goalies on the same roster. In fact, the drought was going on its sixth year until GM Jim Nill decided to go a different way.
As one half of Nill’s newest experiment, Niemi now shares the crease with fellow Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Both goaltenders come from pasts where they were the main starters for their respective clubs. But the idea of morphing two veterans who are still hopefully experiencing the peaks in their careers and splitting their times evenly turned out to be a favorable idea. So the Stars went for it.
The Dallas Stars now have over $10 million invested in their two NHL goaltenders for the next three seasons. While this seems like an unlikely scenario to keep on their plate for the next three years, it will more than likely happen. At least for Antti Niemi.
Coming to Dallas for his first season as a Star, there were many different expectations from Stars fans. But so far, Niemi has found a way to impress both Stars fans and the coaching staff. Now that does not mean that they are not experiencing some struggles. But overall, Niemi has a record of 4-1-0 with a .919 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average.
These numbers are enticing to Stars fans who have waited for a consistent goaltender to join the team and take on the crease. Kari Lehtonen is also experiencing a fast start with a 3-1-0 record, an .898 save percentage, and a 3.00 goals against average. While the stats do not look impressive, Lehtonen has only played four games this season and had a drastic meltdown in his most recent start that required him being pulled early.
Antti Niemi signed a three year, $13.5 million deal with the Dallas Stars on June 29th, 2015. That being said and the evidence granted us through the first nine games of the year, it is clear that Niemi will more than likely be a Dallas Star for all three of those years and potentially even longer.
First off, the contract he signed would not be a favorable one to be picked up by most NHL teams. While the Stars had the flexibility to offer Niemi a really big deal, other NHL teams who are up against the cap wall would never be able to add him in unless they traded another player away and potentially have the Stars eat some of the salary.
Niemi is 32-years old and is exiting his prime years. He is still an elite goalie, but his greatest days are slowly slipping behind him.
If Niemi began to slip for some reason, not many teams would want to trade for an aging goalie in the first place, even if the Stars were willing to take some of his salary on.
On the other hand, the Dallas Stars are doing remarkably well using the two-headed goalie system. Not only that, but they were lucky enough to pick up two goalies with thorough resumes. Niemi is doing better than any former Stars goalie has throughout the last six years and continues to prove himself.
After a disappointing performance by Lehtonen on Saturday night against the Panthers where he surrendered three goals on his first 11 shots faced, Niemi was called on to try and clean up the damage. Niemi could not salvage the mess and ultimately gave away three more goals.
On Tuesday night, he looked for redemption when taking on the Ducks. He most certainly did not find it early, giving away a trio of goals and pinning the Stars in a 3-0 hole after the first period. But he would eventually find his feet and make a couple key saves as the Stars would mount the comeback and take the game 4-3 in regulation.
Antti Niemi is doing wonders for the Dallas Stars so far. The veteran has put on some purely brilliant performances so far, making show-stopping saves and giving the Stars offense free reign to score whenever and however they want. His situation is almost a binding one, meaning he will be set in Dallas for the duration of his contract. But this is only good news for the Stars and their struggles in the crease.
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