clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Antti Niemi waived by Penguins

New, comments

What will the Pittsburgh Penguins do about one of their biggest issues on the team right now - the backup goalie who can’t keep the puck out of the net

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a big, glaring problem. They have played three sets of back-to-back games, and lost all 3 by the combined score of 22-6. They still have 16 more back-to-back’s on the schedule so something needs to change and quickly. Backup goalie Antti Niemi has played all 3 games and looked dreadful

From the Athletic:

“I don't think 2-0 was too bad, really,” Niemi said. “I think what happened at the end of the first period and early in the second was tougher.”

Niemi allowed a couple of leaky goals in the second period but did stop two breakaways in this game, which is a pretty good indication of how the Penguins performed.

The goaltender insists he isn't far from finding his game. He's struggled during each of the past two seasons and didn't exactly look sharp during training camp.

“I still felt okay,” he said. “I made a few good saves. I think I'm really close.”

With all due respect to Niemi, he is not really close.

The 34-year old goalie has a .797 save % overall, an 0-3-0 record and a staggering 7.49 GAA. He’s gotten a bit of a raw deal playing the b-2-b’s against strong and rested teams (CHI and TB twice), and he’s had to deal with spotty team support, but that could also be a chicken/egg situation. Niemi is giving up goals early and often, and most time games are quickly 2-0, 3-0 and beyond. When they get that ugly that quickly, no team is going to be able to offer much support.

So now the Penguins have to be wondering what to do. Niemi’s rope can’t be too long at this point, games have gone so poorly when he’s been in there that whether it’s largely his fault or not, something has to change.

One has to wonder if it’s too early to look to Wilkes-Barre for support. 22-year old Tristan Jarry is the top prospect and has the pedigree (and 1 NHL game last season) but he hasn’t been terribly sharp himself in the AHL this year with a 1-2-0 record, 3.496GAA and a .883 save%.

26-year old Casey DeSmith is playing much better with a 3-0-0 record and 0.98 GAA and .965 save%. DeSmith though doesn’t have much pedigree as an undrafted player who at 6’0, 180 is hardly sized for modern day NHL goaltending. As great as DeSmith has played in Wilkes-Barre, AHL goaltending doesn’t always translate perfectly to the NHL (see Brad Thiessen as a pretty good AHL goalie in 2011 and a very bad NHL’er in 5 games as a prime example for the Penguins in recent memory).

With no guarantee either AHL goalie is the answer, Pittsburgh decided to waive Niemi today. Either someone else claims him and he’s gone, he clears and they can send him to the AHL, or he can clear and they can decide to hold onto him.

What will the course of action be? At this point it remains unknown. The only thing clear is that the Penguins need a lot better out of their backup than Niemi has provided so far. And it may be time for a change.

Poll

What should be next for the Penguins backup goalie spot?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Ehh, give Niemi another chance if he clears waivers
    (369 votes)
  • 36%
    Tristan Jarry
    (1611 votes)
  • 21%
    Casey DeSmith
    (965 votes)
  • 33%
    Try to make a trade and find someone new
    (1500 votes)
4445 votes total Vote Now