The original article is from the Ilta-Sanomat website.
Again - NOT my writing; just providing a ROUGH English translation for a Finnish article, since their website does not have an English version available. My translation should not be quoted as a source!
Antti Niemi recounts how his self-confidence increased during the finals in the spring.
July 7, 2010
The championship smile of the winner of ice hockey’s Stanley Cup, Antti Niemi, plays on the man’s lips still one month after the high point of the season.
On Wednesday he stepped before the [Finnish] media for the first time in Finland since the beginning of October. At that time, Niemi, wearing the Chicago Blackhawks jersey, had played a shutout game during the NHL’s opening game in Helsinki, and was elected the best/most valuable player of the game.
In the end, Niemi finished the season as the #1 goalie of the championship team.
However, Niemi’s sensational Finals’ spring started anything but great. In the opening game of the series against Nashville he blew an easy bouncing puck and the Blackhawks lost the game.
"Before the Nashville series there was a week-long break from the games, and it was felt that the practices were really bad. We went to the first game and I didn’t really know if it was going to be good or bad," Niemi thought back on Wednesday.
"The whole week was mentally taxing and I didn’t have any self-confidence. Then there was that bouncing goal in the first game. After the game, I felt like I [failed] my country. It felt like I personally lost the game."
Self-confidence returned fast.
In the following home game, Niemi responded to the doubters – partly also to himself – with a shutout game. He considers the Nashville series win important because at the other end was another Finnish champion goalie, Pekka Rinne.
"After Nashville was defeated, I knew I could win in the Finals. That feeling carried me a long way," Niemi said.
In the series against Vancouver and San Jose, Niemi demonstrated at last his ability to win. According to Niemi’s own words, he played in these series the best games of his career so far.
However, he was still facing the biggest challenge because in the Stanley Cup Final, Niemi’s ability to stand up to pressure was really going to be put to test. But nothing shook the Finnish goalie any more.
"I tried not to be tense and think if there was a break in the series or who was ahead. I just wanted to have confidence in myself and to be prepared."
The most difficult moment of the Final series came after the fourth game. Blackhawks had gone to two away games to seek one win, after which the series would have ended at home in the fifth game. However, Philadelphia managed to wrestle the series to an even score.
"During the whole flight home, I was more exhausted that I have ever been in many years because of ice hockey," Niemi told.
Niemi and Blackhawks once again showed mental toughness, and forged ahead after two consecutive wins all the way to championship.
The Cup to Lahti and Vantaa
The championship festivities lasted a long time, because Niemi returned to Finland only just before midsummer feast [Juhannus/solstice holiday]. It was easy for him to choose the favorite moment from the whirl of festivities.
"The first evening was the best. When we had just won," Niemi said.
He will get to take the Stanley Cup to Finland for one day in the beginning of August. He intends to bring the cup for a short period to Lahti, where he played with the Pelicans before his departure to NHL, and to his homestead, Vantaa.
The contract negotiations for the next season are in the works with Blackhawks. 26-year-old Niemi would like to continue in Chicago, and not in the least due to a familiar goalie coach.
"It was exciting after the season when the goalie coach said that we still have so many things that have to be improved, and you still are able to play so well. The situation is really good." Niemi smiled.