The Dallas Stars had plenty of players who could make a case for the Bill Masterton Trophy this season, from Sheldon Souray coming back from his banishment to the minors to Eric Nystrom moving from waiver-wire fodder into a career high in goals scored.
But on Sunday, the Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced that the Stars nominee was goalie Kari Lehtonen.
They made a great choice.
Mike Heika didn't mince any words in his article about the nomination, saying the big Finn has "overcome injuries and his own immaturity to become one of the top goaltenders in the NHL this season." Lehtonen is in the top 10 in the league in wins, save percentage and goals against average and once again was the Stars best player in Saturday's win over the Calgary Flames.
``I definitely think he's worthy of that,'' said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who traded for Lehtonen in 2010. ``I think we got him at the right time, and I think he's shown a ton of maturity since he's been here. He's one of the hardest working players on our team, and that's quite a tribute to him, knowing where he came from.''
After the jump, more on today's game against the Flames, a breakdown of the Stars playoff chances and I cannot figure out why Anaheim Ducks fans don't understand the goalie interference rule.
- Heika also wrote his paywalled article about the remarkable turnaround Lehtonen has had since coming to Dallas with a tag of lazy, overweight and uninspired. [DallasNews.com]
- Mark Stepneski also wrote about Lehtonen and his turnaround, including this fabulous quote. "Even two years ago I was too dumb to realize that it was really close, that I wouldn’t get another shot and wouldn’t have a chance to play in this league anymore. Every day I am grateful for these guys and Joe. I guess it helped when I stopped him a couple times when we played against each other. I am hopeful that we have many years to go and have success here, that’s what we are trying to do." [ESPN Dallas]
- Trevor Sudbury, as he does every week, has put together a breakdown of what the Stars need to do to get into the playoffs. We were discussing this on Twitter last night, and the thing it made me think of was the way too dusty Dallas Stars Playoff Postgame Show theme song. Its the first team to four. It doesn't matter how to you get to four. Just get there first. And you win the series. [Defending Big D]
- If you weren't listening to The Ticket on Friday, you missed a completely awesome interview with Steve Ott and Trevor Daley. If you go to The Ticket's podcast page and look for the 3/23 BaD Radio weekly wrap-up, you can jump about 40 minutes into the show and listen to it. Highlights include their fights in junior, why Ott had his own personal sports psychologist and the Derian Hatcher versus Manny Malhotra music deathmatch. [The Ticket]
- Battle for the Pacific Division? Still crazy. Joy. [Puck Daddy]
- We will have more on this at some point in the near future, but Heika had a really interesting article about Reilly Smith and his quick transition to the NHL. [DallasNews.com]
- Brendan Shanahan is earning his keep recently as he handed down two more fines Sunday to players who crossed the line. [USA Today]
- Meet the enemy, part the first: Its been a very long time since the Stars and Flames have had a home-and-home series, and it would be a huge boost to the Stars playoff hopes, not to mention probably the final nail in the coffin of the Flames, if Dallas could get another win today. [Canada.com]
- Meet the enemy, part the second: Even if they pull out a win today, the Flames are probably out of the race given the number of teams between them and eighth, which leaves some wondering what they will use for motivation in this final stretch. [Calgary Sun]
- Around the Pacific Division, the scoreboard watching: How do I love the St. Louis Blues? Let me count the ways after their 4-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday, even if their TV crew can't identify Rick Nash. [Five for Howling/Twitter]
- Around the Pacific Division, the former Stars: Marty Turco was up to his old Pacific Division tricks as he led the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 victory in over the Anaheim Ducks. [Boston Herald]
- Around the Pacific Division, the rules tutorial: The Ducks, led by coach Bruce Boudreau, were really, really unhappy with a disallowed goal in the aforementioned game. But as laid out nice and clearly here, it was the right call no matter how cranky they are about it. [Puck Daddy]
- You can decide for yourself where Lehtonen fits in on this list of Masterton nominees. [Down Goes Brown]
- The more Tom Gaglardi is around and influencing this team, the more I like him. And you can get a big dose of him in Fox Sports Southwest's In My Own Words, which originally aired on March 20.