Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more games this season (and are still with the team) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.
#32 / Goalie / Dallas Stars
Nov 16, 1983
|2011 - Kari Lehtonen||59||3497||32||22||4||136||2.33||1739||1603||.922||4|
Key Stat: 2.33 - Along with his .922 save percentage, Lehtonen put together the most impressive season by a Dallas Stars goaltender since Marty Turco in 2003. Unfortunately for Lehtoen, he was playing behind a much less successful team -- which makes his accomplishments on the season all the more exemplary.
The Good: Lehtonen was easily the team's MVP and very nearly carried the team on his back to the postseason. After a tremendous start to the season, his progress was derailed a bit after a groin injury took him out of commission for a month. After the All-Star Break, Lehtonen was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and proved that he has the ability to truly become an elite goaltender. That he was able to keep the goals-against so low despite the scoring chances in front of him continues to boggle the mind.
The Bad: Despite his incredible run after the start of February, Lehtonen wasn't able to carry the team to the playoffs. Like the Stars in front of him, he faded when the stakes were at their highest against the better teams the NHL had to offer. In his final five losses on the season, Lehtonen allowed 18 goals as the penalty kill fell to earth and the Stars fell from first in the division to out of the playoff race entirely.
Bottom Line: It's tough to put the season's struggles on Lehtonen's shoulders, especially since he was likely the only reason the team had a chance at the end anyway. Despite the gaudy numbers there's the feeling that Lehtonen still has more to prove and if is truly going to be considered an elite goaltender, then the NHL playoffs are where he needs to be.
The Vote: Rate Lethonen on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.