Dallas Stars 2013-2014 Season Grades: Kari Lehtonen

Tom Pennington

The Big Finn was an instrumental piece in the Stars' success this season, but could he have done more?

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 finished the season 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.

Regular season statistics:

GP Record G.A.A. SV% Shots Against Goals Allowed
65 33-20-10 2.41 .919% 1888 153

Playoff statistics:

GP Record G.A.A. SV% Shots Against Goals Against
6 2-3-1 3.29 .885% 165 19

Key Stat: 3804 - The number of minutes that Lehtonen played during the regular season, the most in the league, despite missing time with both groin and concussion issues.

The Good: In terms of actual goaltending mechanics, Lehtonen is the whole package. He has great size, athleticism, positioning, and an excellent ability to see through traffic. Now in the prime years of his career, Lehtonen is clearly a goalie that has steadily refined his play over time to where it is today. He was consistently reliable throughout the regular season, and was a big reason why the Stars made the playoffs thanks to an impressive 7-3 record down the stretch.

The Bad: Despite another impressive regular season, Lehtonen's play slipped in his first return to the postseason since 2007. His .885 save percentage was a huge drop off compared to his regular season numbers, and that's including a statistical boost from a 37-save shutout in Game 3. He looked shaky in all four of Dallas' round one losses to Anaheim, which does not help his current reputation as a goalie that underperforms in big moments, although, to be fair, the sample size is still quite small. He's calm, but does that come at the cost of necessary increases in intensity? Had less injury trouble than in past years, but groin and concussion issues have higher chances of recurrence, so there could be some concern there.

Bottom Line: When he's on top of his game, Lehtonen is arguably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. At only 30 years old he still has a few of his prime hockey years left in him, and he's under contract for four more years with a manageable cap hit. However, the only thing that Lehtonen has yet to show in his career is whether or not he can help carry a team deep into the playoffs. He did a marvelous job to help get the Stars battle their way into 8th place in the final months of the regular season, so he has shown the ability to handle pressure on occasion, but he needs to be able to do it more consistently, especially in the postseason, for the Stars to truly succeed. Deserves another shot at a playoff run to showcase what he can really do.

Vote Now: Rate Lehtonen on a scale of A to F based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.

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