Last night the Dallas Stars got exactly what they needed in a big road game out west. The defense played better, they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot, but most of all they received the type of start in the crease that they dreamed of from Richard Bachman. The youngster was solid in the crease as he helped guide the Stars to a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Wait, who the heck is Richard Bachman you might ask? After last night he is starting to look like someone you should know, and for a good reason.
With Kari Lehtonen out with a groin injury and still not expected back until after Christmas, the Stars have been trying to keep pace with the rest of the Pacific Division without possibly their most important player. It’s undeniable that Lehtonen kept Dallas in many games this season and often was the reason the Stars picked up points in close games. But with him out things have been a little less impressive in the crease. Veteran backup Andrew Raycroft started the first two games after the injury and the Stars won 3-1 in Colorado and 3-2 at home against Ottawa. But their is a reason that the former Calder winner (2004) has bounced around the league in recent years. He has shown that he can play in the NHL, but when called upon to play nightly his stats and play have often slumped off. Following those two wins, he then allowed five goals in each of the next two contests and was ultimately pulled in San Jose on Thursday night after allowing five goals in only two periods. While the Stars defense in front of him has been dealing with injuries and did not help him out much, he looked awful against the Sharks and his fundamentals were atrocious.
So after playing a perfect third period on Thursday night in relief of Raycroft, coach Glen Gulutzan decided to go with the rookie in net last night. And for many people, Bachman was a huge unknown. Before last night had only played in two relief efforts and a lot of AHL games down with the Texas Stars. But the 24 year-old last night showed great positioning, confidence as the game went on, and immediately made a case for him to see more playing time. For those who don’t know him, Bachman looks just like a small guy who could be an average college student. But what Bachman has done before last night shows this might just be the start of a new chapter for him.
Bachman was the Stars 120th pick in 2006 and despite being a little on the small side, he has achieved success at every level he has played at. Being an American player, Richard took the traditional route of going to college. In his first season at Colorado College became the second player in WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association-one of the top conferences in college hockey) history to be player of the year and rookie of the year in the same season with a 1.85GAA and .931SV% in route to 25 wins in 35 games. After his sophomore season Bachman signed an entry-level contract with the Stars and moved to the team’s ECHL affiliate and posted a 2.28GAA and .910SV% with the Idaho Steelheads. Then last season Bachman just keep things going in Austin. In 55 games in the AHL he again had amazing numbers with a 2.20GAA and .927 save percentage, and posted six shutouts under Gulutzan.
Not only was Bachman part of the success that Glen Gulutzan had with the Texas Stars, but just like Gully he has been successful at every level and has worked his way up to the NHL. In 99 “professional” starts coming into this season, his stats have been consistent at every level and he seems to plug in somewhere for a year or two before jumping up to next level. Now in the NHL, Bachman is going to get a chance to impress everyone that doesn’t already know who he is. Gulutzan said last night that he will probably start the Stars next game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. This not only signals a chance to get another start, but two. After the Rangers, the Stars play on back-to-back nights on Thursday and Friday. This likely means he will start not just Tuesday, but one of those two as well.
Unless he really shines over the next few weeks, I fully expect Bachman to be sent back down to Austin in January (or whenever Lehtonen is healthy). But with another good start he could steal the “interim” job from Raycroft, and definitely leave a lasting impression with the Stars fans and staff. Raycroft is a serviceable backup, but his contract is up after this season and he is not someone I think the Stars will look to keep. Bachman could easily put his name in the proverbial hat to the backup in Dallas next season and maybe even lockdown the spot before the summer even comes around. You might not have known who Richard Bachman was before this week. But hopefully after the next couple of weeks, the Stars will have another young netminder that everyone knows besides Jack Campbell. While Campbell might still be the future, having multiple promising, young goaltenders is never a bad thing.
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