Antti Niemi

Missed goaltender interference call costly in Sharks’ loss to Nashville

Antti Niemi SharksThe Sharks were down 2-1 to the Predators in the second period when Roman Josi threw a turnaround shot at the net. Antti Niemi might have had a shot at it, except Colin Wilson was laying on top of the goaltenders right leg, rendering him incapable of regaining his position in the center of the goal crease. Textbook goaltender interference, except none of the linesmen actually saw it happen. The goal counted and the Predators were up 3-1, despite ample lobbying by Todd McLellan for some sort of review. See, plays like that aren’t reviewable under the current NHL rules, because of course they’re not.

After the goal, I tweeted this

and I wanted so badly to be wrong. I really really REALLY didn’t want that missed call to matter. Either the Sharks were going to battle back and score two goals, or they weren’t going to score at all. I would have been fine with either outcome, honestly.

Of course it mattered though. Of course Patrick Marleau scored with 1:22 left in the game, bringing the margin to a single goal. And of course they couldn’t muster any significant attack following that goal, which meant they lost — for what seems like the fifteenth time this season — thanks in large part to a snafu by the officials.

Forget the no call: if this is what life without Logan Couture looks like, Sharks fans had better bundle up for a long, hard month of January. There will be better days (although I can’t think of a better time for Joe Thornton to put the team on his back than on the same day that he’s snubbed by the Team Canada selection committee). But even without Couture, and Hertl, and Havlat, and Kennedy, and Wingels, and Raffi Torres, and so many of this team’s important players that I can’t even remember them when I’m looking at a roster, the Sharks still have some offensive firepower. They are capable of winning the race to three.

It just means that they’ll have to lean more heavily on players like Thornton or Marleau, who’s game-tying goal was his 20th of the season just past the halfway point. They’ll need Joe Pavelski to be as heroic as his nickname suggests. And given that two of the Sharks’ four Olympians (Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Antti Niemi are the others) scored goals in Tuesday’s losing effort, they’ll need larger contributions from guys like Brent Burns and Dan Boyle, who didn’t make their country’s cut.

Obstacles — they appear all the time over the course of the hockey season, and the Sharks are no stranger to them. They’ve been looking more like the Worcester Sharks than the professional version of San Jose’s team with so many forwards downed with injuries, but they still take the ice. Niemi has been alarmingly human lately, and by “lately” I mean “at the absolute worst possible time.” The injuries and the poor goaltending are obstacles, and so is poor officiating. Those obstacles have to be overcome, and the Sharks didn’t do that Tuesday night in Nashville.

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