Now that the Stars are a few games into the season, I think it's time to talk about our goaltending.
Of course, everyone knows what a superb job Kari Lehtonen has done for the Stars so far. Without him, the Stars are very likely 3-3-0, or 2-3-1, instead of 5-1. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone doing much better -- the only weak area we have in save percentage is when we're facing power play shots, and the Stars defense was atrocious in that area; I'm not sure if *any* goalie would have done much better.
The question isn't whether or not Kari Lehtonen is a good goalie. I think everyone here will agree that he is, maybe even a great one. We don't know whether or not he can fill in Belfour's empty slot in Stars' fans' hearts as the Stars' elite, game-winning goalie; it's too early to tell, but if he keeps playing like this, he shouldn't have any problems.
No, the question is, how much of Kari Lehtonen's elite goaltending do we have the right to expect -- and what will we be getting in his stead when he's not available?
It stands to reason that since Kari Lehtonen bailed out the Stars in at least 4 of the 6 games they've played, and almost helped them win in spite of themselves in the Lightning loss, that he had to be around for those games. In fact, Kari has played six games straight.
However, before his arrival in Dallas, Lehtonen was said to be a lazy, poorly-conditioned injury magnet. Obviously the first problem, if it was one, is no longer true; likewise, the Stars training team worked hard with Kari, so that he's in better shape now than he's probably ever been.
Still, that doesn't necessarily mean that he isn't susceptible to getting injured again -- and his history means that, unlike Glenn Hall, or Martin Brodeur, we can't play him in every game.
Enter our backup...Andrew Raycroft.
I suspect most of you don't have much confidence in Mr. Raycroft as our backup goalie. I have to admit that, although I think he's a nice guy, I don't have much confidence in him myself. And to make it worse, I'm not sure that even the Stars management are all that confident that he'll do a good job either -- seeing as, in the six games we've played, most of which were against relatively weak teams, he has played exactly 0 minutes.
The fear that he'll mess up is understandable. Andrew had one good -- one could even say elite -- season, back in 2003-04, as the Boston Bruins starter, but his career's gone downhill since then, with multiple sub-.900 seasons. His best play since the lockout was .911, as a 21-game backup with the Vancouver Canucks, who are currently one of the better teams in the Western Conference.
I know that, deep down, you would like to ride Kari for 82 games. I admit that I would too. He's looked like an amazing goalie so far, and with the number of shots the Stars defense lets the other teams take, we'll likely need every bit of what he can give us.
However, just like Hasek, Kari has had a record of injury, and if we use him too much, and he does break down, we'll be in far worse shape than if he took some nights off here and there, as said backup will have to play every game that he won't be available for.
Now, all of you really know all of this already. What I've said so far shouldn't come as a surprise or a shock to any of you; if you haven't said it yourself, you've probably thought it.
Here's the real question, though -- how many games would you like Kari to start, since he can't start *all* of them? (If you disagree with my conclusion that Kari cannot play in 82 games, then feel free to vote for the last option in the poll, and then check to see what universe you're living in.) Whether we like it or not, our backup is going to have to play in a game *sometime*. When should it be, and how often do you think we should put him in?
Comment and vote below -- and please forgive me for my poor grammar and sentence structure; it's late and I've spent a lot of time writing things before this, tonight. I just want to get this post out the door.