06 February 2008

Niitty's blurb about Lehts, and photos from last night

God, Jimmy ringing the post was like, well akin to that nightmare that you're at school with no clothes. Except it wasn't a nightmare, it was real.

Niittymaki finishes the job for Flyers ATLANTA - Antero Niittymaki would like the world to believe that he doesn't see anything all that special in playing against fellow Finnish goalie Kari Lehtonen.

"You guys keep asking me that after every game," Niittymaki said last night after the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrasher in Philips Arena.

"I don't think if he's playing. There's just something about this building. I like to play here. And when you're playing some teams, you get the good bounces.

"You could see that after we scored the third goal, they hit the post right after, and that's the way it is. It's really hard to explain."

Maybe. But it was not hard to explain to Flyers coach John Stevens, who is aware enough of what happens when Niittymaki, a sixth-round pick in 1998, plays against Lehtonen, the second overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft.

Stevens knew it enough not to play Marty Biron, even though Biron had logged a shutout against Anaheim at home Saturday night.

Stevens has seen this since his Phantoms, backstopped by Niittymaki, swept the Chicago Wolves, with Lehtonen in the nets, in the 2005 Calder Cup finals.

When Niittymaki was preparing to face Lehtonen for the first time before that series, he said something similar to what he said last night.

"They say he's the best young goalie in the world," was the way Niittymaki put it then. "I don't know. We'll see."

Since coming to the NHL, Niittymaki is 8-0 against the Thrashers and has allowed only 13 goals.

Niittymaki, from Turku, Finland, only alludes to the fact that Lehtonen, from Helsinki, has been getting all the accolades and been more highly regarded throughout their careers.

Niittymaki was not picked for the 2006 Olympics until after Lehtonen was injured and unable to play. The Flyers goalie pooh-poohed that, too, even after winning the MVP of the tournament and a silver medal in Turin, Italy.

He's tried to downplay the rivalry ever since. But when pressed, he is forced into a grin and a tiny bit of honesty. Like this: "It's always nice to play against a Finnish goalie, a countryman. Maybe it gives you a little extra. You don't want to lose to a countryman."

He didn't last night, and he hasn't yet.

You know what? It was a tight game. And we came that close to tying it. It's not a win, but it was a good game, and at least we did not suffer the humiliation of the Leafs, who lost 8-0 to the Panthers. THE PANTHERS, PEOPLE!


Carolina Hurricanes 56 26 26
4 56 165 178
Atlanta Thrashers 56 26 26
4 56 154 183
Washington Capitals 54 25 24
5 55 156 169
Florida Panthers 55 25 25
5 55 145 153
Tampa Bay Lightning 54 22 27
5 49 158 182


nebcanuck said...

Course, the next opponent is yours truly, les Canucks!

This'll be a game to watch! We'll get you yet, Atlanta... because if we do, we've earned half of the possible points on this road trip with 5 of 6 defensemen injured!

Mortimer Peacock said...

The Canucks game should be a good one, and it's definitely a pivotal one for them and the Thrashers. God help us.

Maal said...

neb I sincerely hope we beat the snot out of your team! Although I'm quite pleased to know Pyatt's off IR and will be on Blueland ice for me to stare at dreamily as I revert to a 12 year old girl.

mortimer, God help us indeed, especially if Heddy can't get it done. I am almost nervous, b/c I don't follow Western teams at ALL, and have no idea how we match up to the Nucks...