Niittymaki The Starter, For Now

Niittymaki The Starter, For Now
February 11, 2009, 8:07 am
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In a rather surprising turn of events, it seems the Flyers are poised to stay with the hot hand and install Antero Niittymaki as the club's top goalkeeper.  From Philly.com:

After yesterday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Flyers coach John Stevens said Niittymaki would start tomorrow against visiting Ottawa.

If you're scoring at home, it will be Niittymaki's eighth appearance (and seventh start) in the last nine games, including a flawless 43-minute relief appearance Saturday in a 4-3 comeback win in Boston.

Biron likely will play Saturday against the Islanders; Niittymaki will get the call in Sunday's more important matchup against the Rangers.

Without question he's been the better player this season for whatever reason, so it makes sense to make the switch at mid-season instead of waiting to pull the plug on Biron before the playoffs.

Niittymaki, 28, is 13-4-4, with a 2.48 goals-against average. He has been more consistent all season and has been especially effective in his last six games - a 5-1 record and a 2.07 goals-against average.

Biron, 31, is 15-11-5, with a 2.96 GAA. He has lost four straight and has a 3.98 goals-against average in his last five games.

I really felt for Niitty after the 06-07 season.  It couldn't have been easy being the netminder for the worst team in franchise history, and if you watched, it was really tough to blame him for their woes.  Never had I witnessed a team so inept at clearing the puck from their own zone.  Countless turnovers led to a never-ending stream of breakaways and easy goals.

It never really seemed fair the Flyers sought an immediate replacement.  It's not that the Biron trade was a bad idea, and they definitely got their money's worth during last year's run, but it was a case where the club identified goalie as a need when it wasn't entirely evident that was the case.  How could anyone conclude a goaltender's worth when the ice was a veritable shooting gallery?

I suppose it will all work out.  The Flyers have options when the playoffs roll around.  If they eventually go back to Biron, they can attempt to re-sign him after the season, but if he walks they still have a competent replacement.  Or Niittymaki stays on board and owns the position and they focus on depth.  Sounds like win-win to me, or do you find neither of them a viable long-term solution?

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