Apr 25, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) stands for the National Anthem prior to the game against the Anaheim Ducks in game five of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Kari Lehtonen: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Kari Lehtonen. Kari Lehtonen. A Finnish dominator in the crease, most of the time at least.

The name keeps going through my head with the question of “Will he be able to take us to the Cup?” attached to it.

Well, I’m here today to tell you how I feel the Stars should deal with Kari Lehtonen’ future in Big D.

Kari Lehtonen’s Strengths:

Kari Lehtonen is going on his 6th season with the Dallas Stars’ and has never performed horribly. His numbers have stayed constant throughout his regular season career. His record has never gone below .500 in his time with Dallas and his SV% has never dipped below .911, along with his GAA never passing 2.81. This past season, he finnished (hehe) with an impressive 33-20-10 record along with a ,919 SV% and a 2.41 GAA. He is truly an elite goalie when it comes to regular season games and when he needs to come in clutch, he most of the time finds a way to counteract the opposition.  His status among active starting goaltenders is good and it looks as though you could call Kari Lehtonen one of the Top 7 or 8 goalies in the league.

His contract has him buckled down to Dallas for a long time, with his signing of a 5 year extension before the lockout season began. He still has 4 more years to play out before this contract worth &6,250,000 for one more year, then sinking to $6,000,000 for 2 seasons and then bottoming out at $5,000,000 for his final season.

Kari Lehtonen is a “think-on-his-toes” caliber player and is able to make fast decisions that could end up making or breaking the Stars’ chances in a certain game. His acrobatic saves are what he is best known for, whether he uses the glove, blocker, pads, chest, stick, or mask. He also knows when to get physical in net and uses that 6’4″ frame and 217 lb. load to knock anyone who’s in his crease to the outside, something most goalies are afraid to do. His physicality mixed with his ability to make key saves is hard to match.

With Lehtonen turning 31 in about 5 months, his career is entering its prime, and he needs to be looking for a Cup soon before his glory days are on the back 9 and he’s stuck up front with 0 championships. It’s time that Lehtonen turned into the franchise tag the Stars need him to be in order to be playing past April and May.

Kari Lehtonen’s Weaknesses:

One word, and it just happens to be the word that you have to pass in order to get to Lord Stanley’s series: playoffs.

Kari Lehtonen’s playoff performances, both in Atlanta and Dallas, have not produced quality numbers whatsoever. Kari Lehtonen has never proved himself in the NHL postseason. With Atlanta, he started for 2 games and never found a break or a win. He sacrificed a total of 11 goals along with a SV% of .849 and a 5.59 GAA, including one game where he was yanked before the third period horn.

His starts in Dallas were about the same. With a 2-4 record and the only highlight coming from his Game 3 shutout which included 37 saves, which don’t get me wrong, is outstanding. But this MVP performance was heavily defeated by performances like a 16-19 performance in Game 2, a 16-21 save Game 5 which ended in Lehtonen being replaced by Thomas in a 6-2 massacre, and giving away 2 goals in the last 2 minutes of Game 6 and a quick OT giveaway that put the Stars’ to bed for the last time till October. His playoff stat line finished off like this: a 2-4 record with a .885 SV% and a 3.29 GAA. This performance cannot be the one that will lead the Stars to the Cup and although Lehtonen’s numbers are improving with each passing season, the organization cannot simply “hope” that Lehtonen will do better next year, there must be a definite answer. His playoff appearance this past year is what caused many Stars’ fans to seriously question whether or not Lehtonen is the franchise goalie the Stars need to get them past the gauntlet of Western Conference teams waiting to devour them in the postseason and to the ultimate goal for all hockey players. So here’s my answer.

Kari Lehtonen, the Finnish beast, is a quality netminder during the regular season but can’t necessarily find his feet in the postseason, something that the Stars will most likely be seeing a lot in the seasons to come. And with that, they will need a goalie that knows how to get them there. Can Lehtonen be that goalie? Or is another name calling for the Stars’ starting job?

So, you wanna know my opinion? I’ve contemplated this for almost two weeks now, and there wasn’t a moment I didn’t think about it.

So, drumroll please…… or not its okay:

The Stars best bet is to KEEP Kari Lehtonen, at least for the next season ahead. Kari, though on the verge of aging compared to the other Stars’ players, is still a quality netminder and could be a main key in the Stars playoff hunt this upcoming season. As I always say, things can only go up from here. With Jim Nill trusting Mike Valley, the Stars goaltending coach for the Stars the last few years, and therefore keeping him on the staff list, as well as Lehtonen’s chemistry with Valley, his goaltending skills will improve. And the playoffs cannot be blamed on Lehtonen SOLELY. The reason he gave up so many goals can be partially blamed on the defense for letting the puck through and giving Anaheim a free pass to go hunting and sniping. Lehtonen can do better, and I can guarantee you he will do better down the road.

Some feel that it would be better for the Stars to send off Lehtonen and refurnish the entire goaltender department. They say that if we let go of Lehtonen and pick up an upcoming FA Ryan Miller, they will truly be set for the seasons to come. Well, that is NOT the answer, let me tell you. Miller would cost more money and did he get any further with the Central Division runner up St. Louis Blues? Not that I know of. Lehtonen can stick as the starter while Miller can find a different place to live and work.

Lehtonen is meant for Dallas and Dallas is meant for Lehtonen. The fans love him and he loves Big D. His stats are tremendous in the regular season and though he struggles in the postseason, as long as the defense helps out, Lehtonen will turn back to stellar. Kari Lehtonen is the one that will help bring a banner back to Big D, and that is why we need to hold on to him. Get him a strong backup so Lehtonen doesn’t have to play every game he is able to, and he’ll prove all the doubters wrong.

Tell me how you feel about  Lehtonen below, Stars fans! I’ll talk to y’all soon and don’t forget, GO STARS.

 

 

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