The Stat Line of the Night — 3/23/10 — Antti Niemi

antti niemiLast night’s game between the Blackhawks and the Coyotes may have been the biggest game of the year for both teams, and the Hawks got the kind of shutdown goalkeeping that they needed to prove they are the best in the West.  The Hawks have had a huge question mark in goal all season, with Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi fighting it out for the position.  Last night Niemi showed why he should be the goalie for most of the playoffs.

Niemi made 28 saves and gave up no goals en route to the Hawks 2-0 shutout.  What is most impressive about the shutout is that the Coyotes have not lost a game in weeks, bringing a 9-game winning streak into that game.  One of those 9 wins actually came against the Hawks in overtime on Saturday.  Niemi was having none of it last night though, making all kinds of saves.  His defense helped a lot with the return of Brent Seabrook to the lineup.  Also, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa both scored 2nd period goals to help seal the win.

The Hawks now sit atop the Western Conference in points with 99, followed closely by San Jose with 98 and Phoenix with 97.  If they hope to secure the top seed in the west, they will need to continue to get solid performances from their goalie.  Huet may get a few more looks, but Niemi appears to be the guy.  That is why he earns “The Stat Line of the Night.”