LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Richard Bachman #31 of the Dallas Stars juggles the puck after a save and a stop in play against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on December 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
As expected, Richard Bachman was officially named the starting goaltender for tomorrow night's game against the New York Rangers. With Andrew Raycroft struggling with consistency and confidence, Bachman's performance in the past four periods of play left him as the only logical choice in another big game for the Dallas Stars.
This afternoon in New York, Glen Gulutzan had this to say about the rookie netminder.
"Bacher is going to go tomorrow," Gulutzan said. "It's an opportunity for him to showcase himself with us. It's an opportunity to solidify him in our plans and what we're doing. We have to evaluate him, just like we are Lars (Philip Larsen ), Vinny (Tomas Vincour) and all these guys that are coming up. We want to see where they stand. It's a good opportunity for him to showcase himself."
I'm still having an issue with Gulutzan continuously calling him "Bacher", but it's been encouraging to see the coach and this organization show more willingness and less stubborness in giving young guys a shot. Earlier this season we had to watch Adam Pardy and Mark Fistric struggle on the ice while Larsen sat in the press box, but it's becoming more apparent that this team is willing to give their young players a chance to prove themselves. The Krys Barch trade is a good example of this.
What we need to be careful of, however, is letting expectations for Bachman get too high, too fast. While it's understandable to want to see Bachman in net after Raycroft implodes two games in a row, it's also the nature of the fan to overreact after a solid performance in the first full game of his career.
Richard Bachman was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft and has never really had much pressure on him as a prospect. Even while playing some incredible hockey in the USHL and the WCHA, no one really imagined Bachman as the "goaltender of the future" type of prospect. Perhaps it's is relatively small size for an NHL goaltender or the fact he played college hockey for Colorado College and not at a more prestigious school, but Bachman has never had the future of this team sitting on this shoulders.
Compare that to Marty Turco and now Jack Campbell, and it's an interesting contrast of expectations with a goaltender. To be fair, the pressure on Turco only mounted as he improved year after year between the NCAA and the IHL.
Bachman left the NCAA after his sophomore season because of a lack of a goaltending coach and began his pro career with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL in 2009, appearing in eight games with the Texas Stars that season. It was a tremendous start for Bachman to his career, going 22-7-4 with a 2.28 GAA and .910 save percentage. Last season, with Brent Krahn struggling with injury, Bachman became the full time starter for the Texas Stars and was extraordinary -- 28-19-5 with a .927 save percentage and 2.20 GAA.
It was a bit of a rocky start this year for Bachman in the AHL and some questioned whether the pressures of a starting goaltender were getting to him, but he's look much like his old self this past week in his full NHL debut.
Bachman is just 5-10, 175 but has impeccable technique and control in the net and has the ability to stay calm and not over commit when the play is breaking down around him. While his numbers from last season in the AHL and his performance against the Kings is certainly encouraging, it's important to remember that Bachman is still very inexperienced and just what sort of NHL goaltender he could be is still very much in question.
Perhaps it's good that Bachman comes to the NHL without the weight of the franchise sitting on his shoulders. Can you imagine what it is going to be like in a few seasons when Jack Campbell makes his NHL debut? The pressure is going to be immense for him to be incredible right out of the gate; right now, Bachman only has to be better than Andrew Raycroft to really be successful.
If nothing else, it's encouraging that the Stars have another option at goaltender if Raycroft continues to lose the confidence of his team and his coaches. The Stars have historically been known to turn out quality backup goaltenders at an incredible rate -- Roman Turek, Arturs Irbe, Manny Fernandez, Dan Ellis and Mike Smith all went on to have decent NHL careers outside of Dallas.
It's felt like a long time since the Stars had such an option, however -- at least since Mike Smith was traded. Tobias Stephan was horrendous and while Alex Auld played decent, he also never earned the full trust of the coaches.
Richard Bachman, if nothing else, represents another chance for the Stars to have a quality backup goaltender they can rely on behind Kari Lehtonen. While Lehtonen has been relatively healthy since coming to Dallas, the Stars need to have a goaltender to rely on in order to avoid riding their star netminder too hard in February, March and April.
Tomorrow night in New York, against a much better team than the Kings, Bachman will get another shot to prove he deserves that chance.