The Big Finn was fantastic again Monday afternoon as the Stars came from behind to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in the shootout. Lehtonen stopped 40 of 41 shots and two more in the shootout to bail out the Stars, who were pretty mercilessly outplayed for the first 59 minutes.
The effort, combined with his stellar performance in the season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, brings his season save percentage to .975 and his goals against average to 0.97.
That's not too shabby, and his teammates recognize what a big role he is playing early this year.
"He's obviously setting himself apart from other goalies in the league. I haven't been here long, but you can see why,'' said forward Vernon Fiddler. "You need that kind of effort every night to compete in this league and contend for a playoff spot. It's nice to see that he is playing so well. I played against him a few times and I knew he had a lot of skill, but not this much."
"He was unbelievable," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said of Lehtonen.
Yes, Alex. Yes he was.
After the jump, more on the Stars victory over the Yotes, who the Stars might target to help with the cap situation and Don Cherry might have finally taken things one step too far.
- Mike Heika says former coach Marc Crawford might not have been so crazy after all for rolling Lehtonen out game after game last year in this paywalled article. Go on, release your hounds. You know you want to. [DallasNews.com]
- Mark Stepneski takes on the good, the bad and the ugly (and there was more than enough ugly) about Monday's win. [ESPN Dallas]
- And the Arizona Republic has... the Associated Press story. Ick. Maybe they'll post the real story sometime ridiculously early this morning, even more ridiculously early than when I am writing this post, but for now, here's the AP version. [Arizona Republic]
- And here's how our friends over in Phoenix viewed the game. They were particularly impressed with the Mike Ribeiro shootout move. Weren't we all? [Five For Howling]
- On the free portion of the DMN's website, Heika speculates which UFAs might be a target for the Stars as they try to address their cap floor issues before Adam Pardy comes off of injured reserve this week. The most intriguing names on here, at least to me, was former New Jersey Devils players Steve Bernier and John Madden. [DallasNews.com]
- They had only played two games when this was published and looked mediocre at best, but somehow the Stars jumped from 27th to 14th in ESPN's power rankings. I might argue that the first-week power rankings, with only 1-2 games per team, are more useless than preseason power rankings, especially when they're done by a different guy who admits to not even looking at the first set, but it's all just a big pile of rubbish in the end. [ESPN]
- Scouting the enemy: Jaroslav Halak looked shaky, but the St. Louis Blues basically rolled the Calgary Flames 5-2 for their first win of the season. [NHL.com]
- Around the Pacific Division: The other three teams were off Monday, but there was this very amusing (and picture-heavy) blog entry detailing one Los Angeles Kings fan's trip to see the European Premiere games. [The Royal Half]
- This article captures some of my... ambivalence about the Winnipeg Jets home opener last night. I don't begrudge the Winnipeg fans at all for celebrating the fact that they once again have NHL hockey, but it is a zero-sum game, and the return of hockey to Manitoba means the loss of hockey somewhere else, no matter how hard they actively ignore that history. [SB Nation Hockey]
- Don Cherry is usually like that crazy, drunk uncle (albeit one wearing a ridiculous suit that draws the attention of everyone in the vicinity). You listen to him for giggles but you don't really take much of what he says seriously. But some former players, Stu Grimson chief among them, are very, very unhappy with some of his comments on the first Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, where he called many former fighters who were rethinking their stance on head trauma in the NHL lots of vaguely insulting names. Grimson, who now works for a rather important law firm in Tennessee, appears to be the driving force behind this story, where said law firm may announce that Cherry's half-hearted explanation was not enough and demand an apology. [Montreal Gazette]