Dallas Stars: What We Learned In First Half Of 2018-19 Season

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#30 of the Dallas Stars sprays water on Anton Khudobin #35 after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Arena on November 1, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars Have Themselves A Goaltending Duo

For the first time in what seems like forever, it looks like the Dallas Stars have themselves a rock solid duo in the crease.

When July 1 rolled around, the Stars had a choice to make. With their goaltending prospects still a few years from the NHL and UFA Kari Lehtonen simply not getting it done down the stretch in the 2017-18 season, Dallas went out to search for a new backup goalie to pair with Ben Bishop.

Instead of signing one of the big names on the market like Carter Hutton or Jonathan Bernier, though, they went with Anton Khudobin. The 32-year-old had around six full seasons of NHL experience and was well-acclimated to playing in the backup role. And so, with the help of Alexander Radulov acting as a salesman, the Stars locked Khudobin down for two years with a $2.5 million AAV.

What a steal that turned out to be. Khudobin has since proven to be one of the best backup goaltenders in the league this year. He is 7-7-2 on the year with a .920 save percentage (eighth-best among goalies that have started at least 16 games) and 2.63 goals against average. But, it’s not necessarily the basic stats that surprise you; instead, it’s how he has gone about picking up wins.

Khudobin has faced over 500 shots in his 18 games played and owns a quality save percentage of 62.5 percent. In November, he stopped 31 of 32 against Toronto (including a few great opportunities towards the end), 33-35 against Boston, and 31-34 against San Jose. The Stars went 2-0-1 in those contests, and Khudobin played a critical role in securing that record. His most recent performance? Setting a franchise record with a 49-save shutout against the Nashville Predators on the road.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop is having one of his better seasons as an NHL starter. He’s 14-9-2 this season with a .923 save percentage (third-best among goalies that have started at least 25 games) and 2.35 goals against average.

He’s heated up here recently, going 4-1-1 in his last six starts with a .935 save percentage that also included a shutout. Even though he missed the final 11 days in November with a lower-body injury, he’s still been a solid starting option for Dallas. He’s seeing pucks well, taking care of the crease, and is buying the Stars chances to win games in his second season with the team. On top of that, he’s also the team leader in “Three Stars of the Game” points with 27 (4 first-star finishes, 2 second-star finishes, 1 third-star finish).

Without Bishop and Khudobin, there’s no telling where the Stars would be in the standings after the first half of the season. The two are feeding off of each other and giving Montgomery a 1A-1B setup that he can use to his benefit.

And if the Stars are going to get to the postseason this year, it’s going to stem from playing strong in the crease. That much you can count on.

Through 41 games, it seems like the Dallas Stars finally have their goaltending right.

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