Niemi, who turns 31 next week, is entering a contract year off a second consecutive Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. But unlike the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when Niemi put his team in position to take the series (two goals or fewer allowed in six of seven games), the Sharks' latest exit came in the worst fashion imaginable.
The Sharks took a 3-0 series lead against the Kings but failed to close the deal with four straight losses. Los Angeles became the fourth team in NHL history to win a series when facing such a deficit and went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Make no mistake, factors such as defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic's injury and the Kings' ability to dictate puck possession and lock down defensively certainly determined the result of the series. That said, much of the blame could be pinned on Niemi.