Once again, the story after a Dallas Stars victory was the play of Dallas Stars goaltender Richard Bachman. While there are some who would wish most of the attention would be focused on the continued offensive struggles of the top lines, or the floundering power play, there's no doubting that Bachman has been a revelation in net after his first two NHL starts.
Fans always love the backup, especially the untested and unproven one, because all they know is they're unhappy with the current option and we love the potential the backup could bring. When said backup exceeds all expectations, the proverbial ceiling that player can reach is now much higher -- it's a trap we always have to be careful not to fall into, especially after just a few games.
Sometimes, the fans and the media are right when it comes to backup players. Aaron Rodgers worked out in Green Bay, Tony Romo in Dallas. Josh Harding has turned into an extremely solid goaltender in Minnesota. Tim Thomas took over as the starter in Boston and hasn't looked back.
This isn't always the case, however, and the bubble can burst at any time when we start to lift a backup player too high on the pedestal.
More, including a breakdown of last night's big win, after the jump.
With Richard Bachman, who stoned the New York Rangers for his first NHL shutout -- just his second full NHL game -- the bar is suddenly much, much higher than we ever expected it would be. While most just wanted a goaltender that could be more consistent than Andrew Raycroft, there's no doubting that Bachman is proving he has the potential to be an extremely solid backup option for the Stars for the near future.
What we must do, while certainly celebrating an incredible victory on the road at MSG, is to ensure our expectations for Bachman stay within realistic parameters. During the game last night, thanks to some comments by the broadcast team, I was asked if Bachman was going to push Kari Lehtonen for the starting job.
After just two NHL games, even when he's stopped 71 of 72 shots, there is absolutely no excuse for even having that conversation. While most logical Dallas Stars fans certainly don't prescribe to that train of thought, there are no doubt a number of fans watching Bachman play and wondering if this is the "goaltender of the future".
It's a symptom of only being able to really quantify what is right in front of us in the present -- with Lehtonen hurt and Raycroft playing so poorly, Bachman is suddenly the hot commodity.
What the Stars have instead is a player who is showing the potential to be an extremely reliable option as a backup goaltender with the potential at being a starter in the NHL at some point in the future. He's played extremely well at each level of hockey and he's carried that to his first two NHL starts.
While we should certainly be celebrating such a big win and his performance, it's important to maintain our expectations for Bachman at realistic levels.
"It's just a win. It's the hockey game I've grown up playing. It's a lot of a fun," said Bachman after the game. "It's fun being up here with these guys and trying to take it all in. I am taking it one day at a time and see what happens from here."
The Dallas Stars played a solid game overall, not allowing the Rangers to gain too much momentum throughout the contest. With the Rangers putting a much more talented and deeper team on the ice, the Stars played a near-perfect road game with an extremely impressive team performance -- suffocating the Rangers defensively and allowing Bachman the chance to make plays without too much insanity in front of him.
When called upon Bachman was able to make several mammoth saves, none bigger than his glove save on a short-handed 2-on-1 in the second period. The Rangers brought more pressure as the game progressed, but a solid effort by the Stars in the first period allowed Bachman to ease into the game and the environment in certainly the biggest game of his career so far.
"It's amazing, it's fun," said Bachman. "I try not to get too nervous and stay on the same routine just to calm the nerves, but you have to walk in past all of the famous people who have played here, and you do get a little jitters. And I think it took a little while to get loose, but I kind of settled in for the third.''
The game against Los Angeles, Bachman's first NHL start, was a solid performance by the netminder without a need for flash. Against New York, however, the pressure was much higher and Bachman was needed to make several big saves as the offense by the Rangers flexed their muscles. The Stars did a great job as a team clearing the front of the net, yet Bachman's calm and confident approach maintained even when a bit of scrambling was needed.
"That's his strength," said coach Glen Gulutzan. "He doesn't get too rattled. I've never seen the little guy get rattled. He's got a calm demeanor. He's a very intelligent goalie. He doesn't panic or get rattled easily. That's a good quality for a goaltender."
If you ignore the extreme difference in size (5-10, 175 vs. 6-4, 217) Bachman and Kari Lehtonen play very similar games. Neither player is forced to do much scrambling or make "miraculous saves" because of their superb mechanics, positioning and rebound control. It's this sort of stability and consistency that is perhaps contributing to the Stars playing a much better team game with Bachman in the net.
The Stars managed just one goal in the game, a big time score by Trevor Daley in the third period, in large part to the incredible play by Henrik Lundqvist in the other net. The Stars may not have the same offensive power as the Rangers, but they managed some great pressure in the second and third period as well. If not for some big saves by the New York netminder, the game certainly would not have been as close.
"We stuck with it, got a break and buried it," said Daley after the game. "You are not going to score too many goals on that goalie. It was a hard battle and we stuck with it and came out on top."
The goal came with Daley joining the rush, something he's been much more willing to do this season. Perhaps he feels more confident in his own role with the Stars acquiring some depth on the blue line, but Daley is having certainly his best season so far with the Stars. The game-winning goal was evidence of his confidence, taking a great pass by Mike Ribeiro and deking Lundqvist for the go-ahead score.
All in all, on top of the great performance by Bachman, this was about as solid a road victory as you could ask for. The Stars played their game and did not allow the Rangers too much space, "lulling them to sleep" perhaps with their tight defensive coverage.
All of this was fed by the confidence coming from their young netminder -- so calm, in fact, he was barely fazed by the condescending manner of questions coming from the New York media after the game.
"It's his demeanor to be a calm guy and he's very tidy around his net," said Gulutzan. "Tonight, maybe, there were a few more things laying around him than usual, but he made some huge saves on a two-on-one and on a slap shot at the end that he saw at the last minute. When you get saves like that in somebody else's building, it lends itself to getting a few points."