Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen Saves Day In Determined Win Over Flames

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Goaltender Kari Lehtonen /

It’s always a good Saturday when the Dallas Stars win on the Friday night before. Last night, the Stars knocked off the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1, and they have Kari Lehtonen to thank for the important road win.

For a moment there, Ben Bishop looked indestructible for the Dallas Stars.

It wasn’t long ago that the Stars were in the midst of a four-game win streak. They were rolling on the ice, putting points on the board and quickly ascending the standings. Their offense was electric, their defense was focused, and their special teams was undeniably solid.

But the biggest plus in the team’s play was the performance of Ben Bishop. Big Ben started the season on a 5-1-0 run along with a .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA. He looked poised, confident, and strong in the Dallas crease. There was a lot to like about his play and very few visible flaws within his game.

No. 30 gave Stars fans something they hadn’t had in years regarding the goaltending: hope.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

After a commanding 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes last Saturday night, Dallas hit the road for a five-game swing. Bishop had a 4-0-0 streak between the pipes and was slated to get the first two starts in the trip. Considering the two games were against struggling teams, the expectations for Bishop were high.

But then, all of a sudden, those plans crashed and burned. As it has happened many times already this season, the Stars got opposite the results they were expecting. Dallas lost to both the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers and fell into a two-game rut.

Many of their problems were created by a lack of structured defense. But the real problems arose when their safety net stopped functioning. Bishop allowed three goals in the first half of the game against Colorado before being pulled out. Two nights later, he gave up five to Edmonton. What was once a promising hot streak turned miserably cold for Bishop in a matter of hours.

As the Dallas Stars entered Calgary for a matchup with the Flames on Friday night, there were plenty of concerns. The team was 5-5-0 through ten games, nowhere near the record that many expected from them in the preseason. They had lost two straight and were in danger of losing three straight. It was a back-to-back traveling situation, something Dallas has not been successful with in the recent past.

And last but not least, Kari Lehtonen was the projected starter.

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Lehtonen had not experienced the ideal start to his 2017-18 year and looked altogether shaky. His first play in net had come in the third period of opening night when he gave up two goals and erased the Stars’ 1-0 lead on Vegas. One night later, he started against the Blues and gave up three early goals in the first period.

Entering last night’s game, Lehtonen owned a record of 0-3-0 with a .854 save percentage. It was an ugly start, and mixing a shaky backup goaltender with a tired team in front of him seemed destined for disaster.

But it wasn’t. Instead, the Stars came out prepared and, while they didn’t seem 100 percent, they were able to match Calgary punch for punch and take the 2-1 victory. A large factor in the victory was the play of Kari Lehtonen.

The Big Finn was phenomenal in his bounce-back performance, stopping 29 of 30 shots for a .967 save percentage. He had some dazzling saves, including a shorthanded breakaway by Calgary that was quickly converted into a power play goal for Dallas.

His performance shows that the Dallas Stars truly do have one of the best goaltending duos in the league when they want to be. Lehtonen boosted his trust levels and might even have earned himself some more starts after last night’s performance. His hot hand definitely has him looking good as the Stars move forward in the season. The Stars have two starting-caliber goaltenders that can both play at an elite level. Friday night provided a nice reminder of that fact.

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Overall, it was an impressive game in the crease and a great response for the Stars as a whole. The Dallas Stars are off until Monday night when they meet up with the Vancouver Canucks. Will they be able to turn turn this redemptive performance into their second win streak of the season? If they play focused and determined like they did last night, anything is possible.