Antero Niittymäki

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Antero Niittymäki
Antero Niittymäki @ Flyers.jpg
Niittymäki with the Philadelphia Flyers
Born (1980-06-18) June 18, 1980 (age 33)
Turku, FIN
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for TPS
Philadelphia Flyers
Tampa Bay Lightning
San Jose Sharks
National team  Finland
NHL Draft 168th overall, 1998
Philadelphia Flyers
Playing career 1999–2013

Antero Pertti Elias[1] Niittymäki (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈantero ˈniːtːymæki]; born June 18, 1980[2]) is a Finnish former professional ice hockey goaltender who played seven seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks as well as four seasons in the Finnish SM-liiga for TPS. At the 2006 Winter Olympics, while playing for Team Finland, he was voted the MVP of the entire tournament. Recurring hip-problems eventually forced Niittymäki to retire at 32. He is currently a scout with the Flyers.

Playing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

From 1995 to 2002, Niittymäki played for TPS in the SM-liiga (Finnish elite league), playing in the junior SM-liiga prior to 1999.[3] In 2000 he won the Jarmo Wasama memorial trophy for Rookie of the Year,[4] and led TPS to their second straight SM-liiga championship.[5] [6]

Niittymäki was the Philadelphia Flyers' 6th round pick (168th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.[7] "I didn't even know I got drafted. I found out the next morning. I was really surprised," he said in an interview in November 2003.[8] Even if he had opted to go immediately to the United States to play hockey, compulsory military service kept Niittymäki in Finland until January 2001.[6]

From 2002 to 2005, Niittymäki played for the Flyers in the NHL and the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate. While in the AHL, Niittymäki made his name known. He was named the Sher-Wood AHL Player of the Week for the week ending on November 23, 2003 after posting a 0.41 GAA and .984 SP.[9] He played for PlanetUSA in the 2005 AHL All-Star Game.[10] The Phantoms organization gave out Antero Niittymäki bobbleheads on February 27, 2005[11] and Niittymäki figurines on March 3, 2006.[12]

Niittymäki scored a game-winning, empty net, overtime, shorthanded, unassisted goal on April 11, 2004 versus the Hershey Bears. The game ended 3–2, with Niittymäki recording 32 saves as well, which finished the 12–0 Philadelphia season sweep of the Bears.[13][14]

The Phantoms won the Calder Cup in 2005 after sweeping the Chicago Wolves. Niittymäki received the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for being the MVP in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He had a 1.75 GAA and 15 wins, three of which were shutouts.[15]

NHL[edit]

Niittymäki played three games for the Flyers in February 2004. He was allowed to play after Robert Esche was injured and Jeff Hackett was forced to retire because of vertigo. He won all three games, posting a 1.00 GAA, against the Washington Capitals, Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. His starting stint ended after the Flyers acquired Sean Burke from the Phoenix Coyotes. Upon Esche's recovery, Burke took over the backup job and Niittymäki was sent back down to the Phantoms.[16][17][18][19]

Niittymäki started the 2005–06 season as the Flyers' backup goalie for Esche.[14] On October 14, 2005, Niittymäki let in a questionable goal immediately after a faceoff on the Pittsburgh Penguins' side of center ice. He was watching a JumboTron replay when Maxime Talbot softly shot at him and scored.[20]

While Esche was on the injury list, Niittymäki got the opportunity to start with Jamie Storr being his backup goalie. Niittymäki started seventeen consecutive games while Esche was unable to play. He recorded his first NHL shutout and assist/point during this time.[21][22][23] He was named the NHL Defensive Player of the week for the week ending on 8 January 2006.[24]

The 2006–07 NHL season revolved around injuries for Niittymäki. He suffered a torn labrum injury to his left hip during training camp. Doctors decided to try giving him cortisone shots to postpone surgery, which would have sidelined him for 6–8 weeks. The first shot allowed him to get back on the ice for the start of the season, but by late December he needed another shot. Despite this, he managed to take over the starting goaltender position from Esche. However, Philadelphia acquired Martin Biron and he was given the starting position for the rest of the year. Niittymäki finally had hip surgery in summer 2008.[25][26][27][28] He continued play backup goaltender for the Flyers for the next two seasons (07–08 and 08–09), setting a franchise record for most saves in a game in January 2008.[29][30]

The 2009 NHL offseason marked the first time in Niittymäki's NHL playing career that he was an unrestricted free agent.[31] After the Philadelphia Flyers acquired goaltenders Ray Emery and Brian Boucher,[32][33] Niittymäki signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a back-up goalie for Mike Smith,[24] however, he became the starting goaltender due to his performance on top of fellow goalie Mike Smith's injuries.

Niittymäki with the Lightning

Niittymäki started his 2009–2010 season with great success; after his first ten games, he led the league in both save percentage (.939) and goals against average (1.93).[34] Niittymäki won four straight games in February 2010,[14] something that had not occurred for Tampa Bay since two and a half years prior, when the team won five straight in the 2007–08 season (November).[35] On March 25, 2010, Niittymäki won his 20th game in the season[14] and the Tampa Bay Lightning's 500th franchise victory, while setting his second NHL franchise record for most saves in a game.[36]

Niittymäki extended his lifetime winning streak against the Atlanta Thrashers on March 6, 2010 to an impressive 17–0–0.[14][37] He has the longest streak of such amongst active goalies, alongside Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who is 17–0–0 lifetime against Tampa Bay.[38][39][40][41]

On the first day of free agency in summer 2010, Niittymäki replaced long time San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov because of salary cap considerations.[42][43][44] Niittymäki played strongly at the beginning of the season, earning the Sharks Player of the Month award in October.[45] However, he sustained another lower body injury, resulting in him missing 17 games, during which Antti Niemi solidified his standing as the starting goaltender.[46][47] In his second year in San Jose, an injury forced him to miss the first months. Upon his return, Thomas Greiss, who had been backing Niemi retained his role as the Sharks backup goaltender, and Niittymaki was waived. After clearing waivers, he was sent down to the team's AHL affiliate, in Worcester.

On February 6, 2012, the San Jose Sharks placed Niittymaki on waivers, and he was loaned to the Syracuse Crunch after he cleared waivers on February 7, 2012.

Return to Finland[edit]

After spending ten years in North America it was announced on August 21, 2012 that Niittymäki had signed a one-year contract with his youth team TPS. Niittymäki was extremely happy for the opportunity to return to the SM-liiga. He said on the teams official website "It feels good to return to TPS. The team gave me the opportunity to get back in shape and after that we reached an agreement fairly guickly." After a 4-5 shootout loss against Tappara on November 13, 2012, it was announced that Niittymäki would be injured for the next two weeks. Later it was revealed he would be out for the rest of the season. He played only 14 games posting a 2.83 goals against average and a .902 save percentage before the injury. On April 12, 2013 Niittymäki announced he was forced to retire because of recurring hip-problems.

Post-playing career[edit]

On June 5, 2013 Niittymäki was hired by the Philadelphia Flyers as a European goaltender scout.[48]

International play[edit]

Medal record
Men's ice hockey
Competitor for  Finland
Olympic Games
Silver 2006 Turin
Bronze 2010 Vancouver
World Championships
Bronze 2006 Latvia

Niittymäki was named to the Team Finland for the 2006 Winter Olympics after Kari Lehtonen and Miikka Kiprusoff had to pull out due to injuries.[23] Despite being a relative unknown with little top-level experience, he put in a stellar performance and was named the MVP of the tournament after posting 3 shutouts in 6 games, leading Finland to the silver medal.[24]

Niittymäki played for Finland in the 2006 IIHF World Championships until the last game of the qualifying round against Canada, in which he got injured and was replaced by the team's reserve goalie Fredrik Norrena.[49]

In the 2010 Winter Olympics Niittymäki was selected to the team as Finland's third goalie, behind Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Bäckström.[50] However he did not see any action during the tournament.[51]

Awards[edit]

Records[edit]

Early career[edit]

  • First goaltender to record an overtime goal in North American pro-hockey (11 April 2004)[14]
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record[57][58] for first goal by a goaltender
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for lowest career GAA (2.19 GAA)
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for lowest GAA during the postseason (1.75 GAA in 2005)
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for most saves in a period during a playoff game (23 saves, 1st period, 29 April 2005)
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for most saves in the postseason (611 saves in 2005)
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for most shutouts in a season (7 SO in 2003–04)
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for most shutouts in the postseason (3 SO in 2005) tied with Neil Little
  • Philadelphia Phantoms' franchise record for most wins by a goalie in a season (33 wins in 2004–05)

NHL[edit]

Transactions[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

[2][3][31][60]

Regular season[edit]

Season Team League GP W L T OTL MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1999–00 TPS SM-liiga 32 23 6 3 1899 68 3 2.15
2000–01 TPS SM-liiga 21 10 5 1 1112 46 2 2.48 .907
2001–02 TPS SM-liiga 27 16 8 1 1498 46 3 1.84 .937
2002–03 Philadelphia Phantoms AHL 40 14 21 2 2283 98 0 2.58 .903
2003–04 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 3 3 0 0 180 3 0 1.00 .961
2003–04 Philadelphia Phantoms AHL 49 24 13 6 2728 92 7 2.02 .924
2004–05 Philadelphia Phantoms AHL 58 33 21 4 3453 119 6 2.07 .924
2005–06 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 46 23 15 6 2690 133 2 2.97 .895
2006–07 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 52 9 29 9 2942 166 0 3.38 .894
2007–08 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 28 12 9 2 1424 69 1 2.91 .907
2008–09 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 32 15 8 6 1804 83 1 2.76 .912
2009–10 Tampa Bay Lightning NHL 49 21 18 5 2657 127 1 2.87 .909
2010–11 San Jose Sharks NHL 24 12 7 3 1414 64 0 2.72 .896
2011–12 Worcester Sharks AHL 5 2 3 0 299 15 0 3.01 .890
2011–12 Syracuse Crunch AHL 8 2 5 0 385 26 0 4.05 .867
2012–13 TPS SM-liiga 14 1 7 3 720 34 0 2.83 .902
NHL totals 234 95 86 0 31 13113 645 5 2.95 .902

Playoffs[edit]

Season Team League GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1999–00 TPS SM-liiga 8 6 2 453 13 0 1.72 .944
2001–02 TPS SM-liiga 4 2 2 295 11 0 2.23 .926
2003–04 Philadelphia Phantoms AHL 12 6 6 796 24 0 1.81 .926
2004–05 Philadelphia Phantoms AHL 21 15 5 1269 37 3 1.75 .943
2005–06 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 2 0 0 72 5 0 4.11 .828
2010–11 San Jose Sharks NHL 2 1 0 91 1 0 .66 .967
NHL totals 4 1 0 164 6 0 2.19 .898

International[edit]

Year Team Event   GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1998 Finland EJC 1 60 4 0 4.00
2000 Finland WJC 5 245 10 0 2.45
2006 Finland OG 6 5 1 359 8 3 1.34 .951
2006 Finland WC 4 2 1 1 212 6 2 1.70 .927
Senior int'l totals 10 7 2 1 571 14 5 1.53 .939

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.olympic.neostrada.pl/ols/2006TORnr3.pdf
  2. ^ a b National Hockey League. Antero Niittymäki's player profile at NHL.com. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b Antero Niittymäki – player profile and career stats at European Hockey.Net
  4. ^ a b Meltzer, Bill. Flyers European Update. Retrieved 5 January 2006.
  5. ^ Lampinen, Pekka. Finnish goaltenders since the mid-90's. Retrieved 5 January 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Alven, Al. From Finland to Philly? Antero Niittymaki may arrive in 2002–03. Retrieved 5 January 2006.
  7. ^ a b Internet Hockey Database. 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  8. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. Post-game interview on 23 November 2003
  9. ^ a b Philadelphia Phantoms. (17 November 2003). Niittymaki Named Sher-Wood AHL Player of the Week. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b American Hockey League. Game Summary: 2005 AHL All-Star game. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  11. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (15 February 2005). Niittymaki Bobblehead Doll Giveaway on Feb 27. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (14 February 2006). Phantoms Makeup Date Announced. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (11 April 2004). Niittymaki Scores in OT to Give Phantoms 3–2 Win in Hershey. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b c d e f g *Hockey Goalies. Antero Niittymaki. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Philadelphia Phantoms. (10 June 2005). Phantoms Are Calder Cup Champions. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (3 February 2004). Niittymaki to Make His NHL Debut on Wednesday. Press release 1431. Inactive, no archive.
  17. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (9 February 2004). Flyers Goaltender Jeff Hackett Announces His Retirement. Press release 1443. Inactive, no archive.
  18. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (13 February 2004). Flyers Move On After Multiple Injuries. Press release 1452. Inactive, no archive.
  19. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (25 February 2004). Esche Cleared to Return. Press release 1478. Inactive, no archive.
  20. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (14 October 2005). Flyers Survive in Overtime Against Penguins, 6–5. Press release.
  21. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (6 December 2005). Flyers Defeat Calgary in Shootout, 1–0. Press release.
  22. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (20 January 2006). Esche to Start Saturday Against Penguins. Press release.
  23. ^ a b Philadelphia Flyers. (27 January 2006). Niittymaki Expected Starter for Team Finland. Press release.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Tampa Bay Lightning. (10 July 2009). Lightning Sign Free Agent Goaltender Antero Niittymaki. Press release.
  25. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (28 December 2006). Holmgren Updates Status of Niittymaki. Press release.
  26. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (22 October 2007). Niittymaki Ready for Action. Press release.
  27. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (6 December 2007). Common Goal. Press release.
  28. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (21 October 2008). Niittymaki Back in Net. Press release.
  29. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (14 June 2007). Flyers Sign Antero Niittymaki to New Two-Year Contract. Press release.
  30. ^ a b National Hockey League. (5 September 2008). Get yourself a workhorse for a goaltender.
  31. ^ a b c Antero Niittymäki's player profile at TSN.ca
  32. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (10 June 2009). Flyers Agree to One-Year Contract with Ray Emery. Press release.
  33. ^ Philadelphia Flyers. (1 July 2009). Boucher, Laperriere Join Flyers. Press release.
  34. ^ Goalies World. In goal this week: Week 08, ending on Sunday, November 22nd 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  35. ^ Tampa Bay Lightning.. Schedule and Results. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  36. ^ Cristodero, Damian. "Tampa Bay Lightning defeats Boston Bruins 5–3". Tampa Bay Times, 26 March 2010.
  37. ^ a b Tampa Bay Lightning. (6 March 2010). Niitty looks to end team's losing streak, extend his winning streak against the Thrashers. Press release.
  38. ^ a b Tampa Bay Lightning. (13 November 2008). Tampa Bay Falls To Red Wings, 4–3. Press release.
  39. ^ a b Hockey Goalies. Chris Osgood. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  40. ^ a b Cristodero, Damian. Niittymaki improves to 16–0 against Atlanta as Tampa Bay wins 2–1. Tampa Bay Times, 3 February 2010.
  41. ^ a b Associated Press, via Entertainment Sports Programming Network. (16 November 2008). Niittymaki improves to 11–0 vs. Thrashers, stops Atlanta's five-game win streak.
  42. ^ a b CBS Sports. (1 July 2010). Sharks sign cheaper Niittymaki to replace Nabokov in goal. Wire report.
  43. ^ a b San Jose Sharks. (1 July 2010). Niittymaki Signs With San Jose. Press release.
  44. ^ a b San Jose Sharks. (1 July 2010). Niittymaki Ready For The West. Press release.
  45. ^ a b San Jose Sharks. (6 November 2010). Niittymaki Is Top Player For October.. Press release.
  46. ^ San Jose Sharks. (8 February 2011). Antero Niittymaki Will Dress Tuesday. Press release.
  47. ^ San Jose Sharks. (5 March 2011). Sharks Get Back A Healthy Niittymaki. Press release.
  48. ^ Anthony SanFilippo (June 5, 2013). "NIITTY-GRITTY SCOUTING". Philadelphia Flyers. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  49. ^ Sports Illustrated. 16 May 2006.In NHL Truths and Rumors via CNN.
  50. ^ Tampa Bay Lightning. (30 December 2009). Niittymaki Named to Team Finland for 2010 Olympics. Press release.
  51. ^ National Hockey League. NHL Olympic Player Tracker for Saturday, Feb. 27 2010.
  52. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (2 February 2004). Niittymaki Named Toyota Player of the Month for January. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  53. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (2 April 2004). Niittymaki Named Toyota Player of the Month for March. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  54. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (1 December 2004). Niittymaki Named Player of the Month for November. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  55. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. (22 December 2005). Phantoms Announce All-Decade Team. Press release. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  56. ^ East Coast Hockey League, (3 February 2006). David Aebischer. Press release.
  57. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. Records – Regular Season Individual. Retrieved 2 January 2005. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  58. ^ Philadelphia Phantoms. Records – Playoff. Retrieved 2 January 2005. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
  59. ^ Philadelphia Flyers.. Schedule and Results. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  60. ^ Antero Niittymäki's career statistics at The Internet Hockey Database

External links[edit]

Interviews

Statistics

Preceded by
Timo Pärssinen
Winner of the Jarmo Wasama memorial trophy
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Toni Dahlman
Preceded by
Wade Flaherty
Winner of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy
2004–05
Succeeded by
Frédéric Cassivi