Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki's career-best stretch is carrying the Tampa Bay Lightning

BRANDON — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he will be hanged if he doesn't play goaltender Antero Niittymaki tonight against the Bruins.

By whom? The players? Fans?

"No, no," Tocchet said, insisting he spoke in jest. "But the kid is 7-0-1. I'd be crazy not to. You ride him. He's a hot hand."

Scorching, really, though Niittymaki's record in his past eight starts doesn't tell the whole story.

It's one thing to win. It's another to carry a team that during a 7-1-1 roll has scored 22 goals, a paltry 2.4 average, though that is plenty when your goalie is in a stretch with a 1.09 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in the seven wins and one shootout loss.

"He's been amazing," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said.

Please, Niittymaki said, "It's not that huge a deal."

"You're just relaxed and patient and wait for the puck to come to you," he said Wednesday at the Ice Sports Forum. "I'm not out there in a zone. You feel good and things are going good. That's about it."

Except, there is this:

Niittymaki, 29, never has had such a stretch in six NHL seasons. He was 8-0-1 from Dec. 22, 2005 to Jan. 6, 2006, but his 2.40 goals-against average and .921 save percentage weren't close to the numbers he is producing now.

This is career stuff.

Even fellow goalie Mike Smith, whom Niittymaki is keeping on the bench, is on the bandwagon.

"He's kept us in games and given us a chance to win every night, and we're getting rewarded for it," Smith said. "That's all you can ask from a goalie is to give a team a chance to win, and he's doing that and more."

Niittymaki, who is 16-9-5 on the season with a 2.36 goals-against average and entered Wednesday ninth in the league with a .922 save percentage, is intent on managing his success.

Serious about practice — "He's probably our hardest-working guy," Tocchet said — Niittymaki, also part of Finland's Olympic team, paces himself.

Instead of trying to stop every shot, he said he focuses on technique:

"You're not going to go post to post all the time. You have to focus on the right things. Do it like you would in a game, focus on positioning and movement."

"He's a quiet goalie," Tocchet said. "His movements in net are very quiet, excellent angles."

There is mental conditioning, too.

"When things are going well, you have to remind yourself it's the little things that are going my way," Niittymaki said. "I'm not much of a better goalie overnight, but when you're focused for the whole 60 minutes and you have the right positioning, things go your way."

Such as during Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Canucks in which Niittymaki made 39 saves.

Seemingly out of position after a stop, he lunged left with his glove to rob Henrik Sedin of what seemed a certain goal.

Then there were the bang-bang saves on Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Edler; the first off Niittymaki's blocker while he moved to his right, which put him square to the rebound and Edler's slap shot, which was gloved.

"It's one of those things where you don't panic," Niittymaki said. "You have confidence. You're calm. You look at the puck and let it come to you. You feel you have a chance to stop everything."

He gets another chance tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.

And Tocchet avoids a hanging.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki's career-best stretch is carrying the Tampa Bay Lightning 02/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 4:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays vs. Orioles, seeking to halt a skid

    Blogs

    After being swept by the Rangers, and losing four straight, the Rays are looking to get back on track tonight against the Orioles, and they have LHP Blake Snell on the mound.

     Blake Snell will be on the mound tonight.
  2. Ever since the Bucs made Gerald McCoy the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, he has struggled to overcome the shadow cast by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
  3. HomeTeam 100: Players 41-50

    Footballpreps

    Bulldog QB Charles Harrison III, (12) during the fourth quarter of the Zephyrhills at Nature Coast High School football game on Friday, 11/11/16.
  4. Lake Tarpon bass tournament still going strong after nearly 40 years (w/video)

    Outdoors

    Matt Smith, left, and Gary Muchler, work to bring a large mouth bass into Smith's bass boat with only minutes to spare while fishing off Dolly Bay in Lake Tarpon during the Lake Tarpon Tuesday Night Bass Fishing Tournament on Tuesday (7/18/17). The fish sealed second place for the duo.
  5. Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?

    Blogs

    After the Rangers swept them over the weekend, the Rays won't have much time to rest, with 14 games scheduled for the next 14 days. The second half of their homestand begins tonight against the Orioles. Here's the information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

    Starter Wade Miley has melted down after a hot start.