While sitting in the second row at the Kings-Sharks game Thursday night, I got to thinking a few things - like how much I love the popcorn in the Staples Center Chairman's Room.
And, more relevant to the point of this glorious goalie blog, I also noticed that Sharks keeper Antti Niemi (aka "The Great Wall of Finland") has a flaw in his game that quite possibly may have cost the Sharks the game (they lost 4-3 in a shootout).
Now, of course, we at Stop Da Puck have to admit that finding things wrong with the otherwise fundamentally sound, 6'2" former Stanley Cup winning goalie (with an impressive 30-17-6 record this year) is an exercise in the kind of hyper-critique usually left for Montreal Canadiens fans and abusive husbands for whom their wives are just never good enough. But we digress.
Our point is this: At least two of the goals, and possibly three, that Niemi allowed in the Kings game blew past his glove like a thief in a home for the visually impaired. (In the below video, check out the second-round shootout goal to his glove side at 6:00, followed by Brown's game-winner - also to the glove side.)
These two goals exposed a weakness in his glove positioning that I noticed throughout the game. Rather than turn his glove out away from his body so that the webbing covers the net to his left, he tucks it in as if he is pointing the glove at the puck (look at the pic above this post to see his standard glove positioning). By tucking his glove in tight like this Niemi is making simple geometrics work against him: By not covering the net space with his glove, shooters see the hole and in these cases shoot into the open space. The fix: This Shark needs to hold his left, uh, fin out at his side and turn his wrist slightly outward.
But judging by how Kings forwards Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown both went for the glove on Niemi makes us think that we aren't the only ones who have noticed this crack in The Great Wall of Finland.