The Dallas Stars were able to win in overtime on the road yesterday afternoon against the Boston Bruins. Backup goaltender Kari Lehtonen played a big role in the victory and should be in the crease more often as a result.
When the Dallas Stars signed Ben Bishop last offseason, it was assumed that he would be the starter. A little over the midway point in the season that’s still the case, and it’s worked.
However, the coaching staff seems to have forgotten that there is another perfectly capable net minder at their disposal who has been a benchwarmer for the better part of the season. If Dallas wants to be truly successful, they’ll need to find more situations to put Kari Lehtonen because he can handle it.
Lehtonen was Dallas’ starter for years. He played in a high number of games and while he wasn’t always the most reliable in the crease, he took his role and ran with it. There should be no doubts that he is able to be a force as a backup, especially in the second half of the season.
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If the Stars can capitalize on the fact that they have two capable goaltenders — not to mention a lot of money invested in them — they’ll be able to make strides toward the top of the Western Conference standings.
With the race as tight as it is, losing points because of a tired goaltender is the last thing the Stars need. Starting Lehtonen more often solves that.
Injuries happen in the NHL. It’s a contact sport with a lot happening. Goaltenders are, unfortunately, not immune from them either.
Dallas is aiming to make a return to the playoffs after a disappointing season last year. To do that, they’ll need to win games and earn points consistently. Physically, that task is immensely demanding. When you add in the mental barriers that players go through on top of the physical wear and tear, it can be nearly unbearable.
Goaltenders play the entire game, have the most riding on them and are the go-to for teams to have success. That’s why their position in particular is mentally taxing, and Dallas failing to start Lehtonen — and consequently leaving Bishop to carry the team — puts them at a disadvantage.
The Stars can’t be a playoff team riding one goalie for the whole season and then hope to transition in the postseason seamlessly. Not in the NHL. Not with the talent that exists in the league. Protecting Bishop from the mental and physical strain of the season is, quite frankly, sufficient enough reason to put No. 32 in the crease more often.
Dallas wants to win and finding the recipe to success is a time-consuming and difficult task. Lehtonen, however, can help. He’s been an NHL goalie and has proven his abilities during his career. Failing to encourage his contributions to the team only hurts the Stars and need not continue.