Good morning to all, Stars fans. This is the third and final part of the analysis of the claim that the Stars have become the team to beat come next season. In the first part, I explained the glorious rebirth of the Dallas Stars offense into the frightening powerhouse it will turn out to be next year. In the second part, I noted the jumbled mess that the defense has come to be and the hope that lingers regarding a possible turnaround come next year.
This part will tell about the Stars goaltending situation:
Are The Stars The Team To Beat Next Year: The Goaltending:
The Dallas Stars goaltending has seen its bumps in the road over the past few seasons, but it looks as though Jim Nill has finally figured a way to turn onto a fresh and new path.
Kari Lehtonen, the conniving starter:
Kari Lehtonen sure knows how to make a scene. From the beginning of his days with the Atlanta Thrashers where he would do silly things such as sit on the net, to his time with the Stars where he makes spider-monkeyesque kick saves and roll-on-the-back stops. But that’s not all he is good for.
Lehtonen has been with the Stars for five, going on six, seasons and has been the starter ever since the end of the Marty Turco era. His numbers have been outstanding over his time with the Stars and he is right now holding a .919 SV% and a 2.49 GAA throughout his tenure in Big D. He is known in the NHL and has made multiple appearances in the NHL 3 Stars of the Week. Lehtonen set an NHL record for this past season in games played with 65, which ended with a record of 33-20-10. His playmaking ability is still there even at the age of 30 and he can ultimately be single-handedly trusted by Ruff whenever the defense has an off night or a hero is needed.
But Lehtonen seems to have a loophole in his consistent performance that he cannot overcome: the postseason. His .885 SV% and 3.29 GAA were a quick reminiscence of his first playoff push in which he was the sole reason for two of the Thrashers four losses. Will his playoff stock increase? Well, a lot of that possibility rests in the hands of the pairings in front of him and if the defense can help out a little and support him. But with his lack of skill when it comes to the postseason, the Stars may be playing with fire that will turn out to really burn in the end. Nonetheless, Lehtonen will remain the starting backstopper for Dallas, at least until the four more years of his contract expire.
Anders Lindback, the backup?:
Anders Lindback was reeled in by Jim Nill amongst the mayhem of July 1st in which most Stars fans did not notice due to the fact that Jason Spezza had been added minutes before. Lindback has been tossed around in the past few years, going from the backup spot in Nashville to the starting spot in Tampa Bay and back to the backup for the Lightning. He was looking for a fresh start and Jim Nill gave him a one-year chance to show his stuff.
Now, Lindback did not have a magnificent season last year and will definitely be looking for a rebound. His season consisted of an 8-12-2 record this past year, with a .891 SV% and a 2.90 GAA. His playoff numbers were nothing to gawk at either, going 0-3-0 in the Lightning’s 0-4 series in the first round to the Canadiens this past year with a .881 SV% and a 3.91 GAA.
So is Lindback the answer for the backup that will lift Lehtonen’s burden that he has been forced to carry over the last three years with the likes of Andrew Raycroft, Richard Bachman, Dan Ellis, and Tim Thomas? Or will a younger and fresher face be making their own push for the job in the crease? Training camp will be the determining factor for this conundrum, but right now it seems as though Lindback’s spot manning the boards door is locked down. But it is still yet to be a done deal.
The bottom line:
The Stars 2014-2015 early goaltending grade: B-
There is a sliver of hope in the Stars crease for the first time in a while, but if that hope will turn into reality is yet to be seen. Lehtonen has proven himself to be a capable and sturdy goaltender over the last few years in Dallas and has shown that he deserves the starting job. Although his playoffs are sketchy in the stat book, he still knows how to get the job done when it’s needed to be done.
The backup goalie is still up in the air, but Lindback will most likely retain the rights to the job. This doesn’t mean that a possible mid-season change is out of the question, though. But Jim Nill made certain that if it was necessary, that he would have bountiful depth in his farm system that he could look to. Hats off to Nill on that move.
But the Stars goaltending situation should be improved from years past, and it should overall be able to help a defense that may see it’s fair share of struggles in 2014-15.
Comments and questions below and Go Stars.