There was a good chunk of ugly in the Dallas Stars 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, but the worst bit I saw was reported after the game by the intrepid Dallas Morning News reporter Mike Heika.
Stars goalies last four games have a 4.55 GAA and .813 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen this season has 2.12 and .934.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) February 22, 2013
As I've written before, both Richard Bachman and Cristopher Nilstorp are in a bit of an impossible situation. Lehtonen is among the elite goalies in the league, a physical presence in the net and extraordinarily calm in the crease, which lends a lot of confidence to the guys in front of him. Neither of them can reasonably be expected to replace him at that level.
But still, an .813 save percentage is unacceptable, and I'm sure they both know that.
For what it's worth, Lehtonen (who is eligible to come off IR on Saturday) seems to be progressing with the groin injury that cropped up last week.
"He’s making progress," Gulutzan said. "We’re working him out pretty hard and he hasn’t had any problems with it, so the injury hasn’t gotten worse. That’s a good sign. He’s gone hard with therapy and rehab, so he is certainly ahead of the injury that he had last year [which kept him out 12 games]. It’s not to the same extent."
That's obviously good news, but as much as the Stars are struggling in the crease right now, the last thing they want to do is rush Lehtonen along. Obviously, there's no reason to bring him back on the too-soon side of ready to snap them out of this funk because his importance to this team is too great to risk re-aggravating the injury.
Until then, the Stars desperately need one of their two goalies to step up the way Bachman did when Lehtonen missed games last season.
Also in today's links, more on the loss to the Canucks, Brian Burke lands somewhere (spoiler alert: It's not in Dallas) and another freaky skate cut injury.
- Wasted powerplays, a weak goal or two and way too many goals allowed from defensemen led to the Stars demise at the AAC. [Stars Inside Edge]
- This chat was held before Thursday's game, but Heika does think Nilstorp has the inside track on the full-time backup/temporary Lehtonen replacement job for a variety of reasons. [DallasNews.com]
- Hey, remember that speculation that former Toronto Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke had inside ties with the Dallas front office that could lead to a position here? Yeah, that didn't exactly come to fruition, as Burke joined the scouting staff of the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. [CBC.ca]
- This relates to the story Brandon posted Thursday about quantifying the value of a player like Ryan Garbutt or Antoine Roussel. While "toughness" may be oversold by some in hockey, particularly as a potential replacement for skill, there is no doubt there is some value to a "tough to play against" type of guy. [Backhand Shelf]
- Starting off the cruddy injury news portion of today's links, some pretty nasty news from the family of Wade MacLeod, the AHL player who suffered a seizure recently. A "benign mass" is... better than malignant, but anything in your brain that isn't supposed to be there is extremely worrisome. Best of luck to him. [Springfield Falcons]
- Our best wishes also go out to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Redmond, who suffered an extremely serious and scary injury Thursday when he had the back of his thigh stepped on during the pre-game skate. The laceration involved a very important artery and vein (either the femoral artery and vein or the direct lower-leg descendant of said vessels) as well as god knows how much muscle and tendon and other things. He had three-hour surgery right after the incident, and is obviously out indefinitely. [Winnipeg Free Press]
- We talked about the Stars biggest rival (and to some extent, a lack thereof) before the season, and Todd tackles that topic in his weekly column. I miss the late 1990s and early 2000s when the rivalry with the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche was at its peak. [Thursday Morning Cupcheck]
- Instead of ending on a video today (though if you really want one, Puck Daddy has a pretty awesome offering), I give you this essay from Will Leitch. The final excerpt: "I'm never going to make it all the way as a hockey fan; it's not in my bones the way it is for true fans. (Baseball is always going to have that place for me.) But this is my problem, not hockey's. Honestly: I wish every sports fan loved their sports, their team, their fandom, as much as hockey fans love theirs. I wish every person loved anything as much as hockey fans love hockey. Game on." [Sports on Earth]