Stars coach Lindy Ruff defended his strategy of giving Niemi and Kari Lehtonen equal playing time in 2015-16, the Dallas Morning News reports. For the most part, the Stars netminders stayed healthy this season, but both goalies owned a save percentage that ranked no better than 55th overall. Niemi and Lehtonen each had 25 wins in the regular season, but it was Lehtonen getting the lion's share of the starts in the playoffs, ultimately falling flat in Game 7 of the conference semifinals against the Blues. Stars general manager Jim Nill declined to say whether he plans to buy out Niemi's $4.5 million contract, which has two years remaining.
Niemi gave up two goals on 10 shots after replacing Kari Lehtonen in Wednesday's 6-1 Game 7 loss to the Blues. Both Stars goaltenders struggled in this one, though Niemi was actually the less incompetent of the two. He finishes with just one win and an ugly 3.29 GAA in five postseason appearances.
Niemi gave up three goals on 12 shots before being pulled in the second period of Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Blues in Game 3. This experiment failed for coach Lindy Ruff. After entering Game 2 in place of a struggling Kari Lehtonen and performing admirably, Niemi was trusted in Game 3 as the starter. Unfortunately, as was the case in the regular season, the netminder was unable to carry over the solid play, which landed the Finn back on the bench. The 32-year-old's 2.75 GAA and .856 save percentage in the playoffs is enough to ignore Niemi when he's between the pipes.
Niemi led his team out for warmups Tuesday, meaning he'll start Game 3 against the Blues, Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reports. Niemi was the first goalie off the ice at morning skate Tuesday, leaving hockey fans scratching their heads since Kari Lehtonen was named the starter by coach Lindy Ruff earlier in the day. As it turns out, Ruff wasn't serious when he originally named Lehtonen the starter, and so the goalie carousel continues. Unlike Lehtonen, Niemi has earned the Stanley Cup in his career -- he lifted the hardware with the Blackhawks in 2010. However, the Finn has struggled this postseason based on a .892 save percentage through three games.
Niemi entered at the start of the second period in Sunday's Game 2 loss to the Blues, stopping 19 of 20 shots. Starter Kari Lehtonen struggled mightily, allowing three goals on just five shots in the opening frame, paving the way for a change in net. Niemi played admirably in his stead, but unfortunately the one goal he allowed came in overtime, as St. Louis evened up the series. Lehtonen has been mostly reliable in the playoffs though, so Niemi likely will return to the bench for the start of Game 3.
Last 7 Games
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