Antti Niemi, the Sharks goalie, says there are two usual questions that people ask when they hear he is from Finland.

"They want to know if we have McDonald's there," Niemi said.

(Answer: Yes.)

"And they want to know if you can go skiing in the summer where I live," Niemi said.

(Answer: Not really. Unless it's water skiing. Niemi is from Vantaa, in southern Finland near the Baltic Sea.)

There is no third usual question. So we'll pose one:

Is Niemi back in the same form he showed last spring when he goaltended the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup title?

(Answer: It sure as Helsinki looks like it.)

Friday night, the Sharks will try to sweep the Detroit Red Wings out of the playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. And it must be an excellent feeling for Sharks players to know that the Niemi playing behind them has been so solid and unflappable in the first three games against the Red Wings.

In the first round against the Los Angeles Kings, you see, there were many flappable moments for Niemi. He was removed from two games after giving up too many goals. He rallied to win the final two games of the series. But there were skeptical concerns that the Red Wings, with better offensive talent than the Kings, was a worst-case scenario for a sustained flappability revival.

Niemi has not cooperated with the skeptics. Depending on the moment, he has been either very good or better than very good against the Red Wings. In each of the series' first two games, he allowed only one goal. He stopped a breakaway attempt by Darren Helm in Game 2. Niemi did give up three goals in Game 3 on Wednesday night, but two of them were on power plays. His glove hand, iffy at times against Los Angeles, has been quick and swift and sticky.

Maybe we should have seen it coming, going by past performance. Niemi entered the series with a career 1.96 goals-allowed-per-game average against Detroit. Including his time with Chicago, his record is 5-0 against the Red Wings at The Joe.