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Dallas Stars Goaltender Kari Lehtonen Off To Solid Start In 2014-2015 Season

Kari Lehtonen's stats tell a better story than maybe the eyeballs have about his start to the season.

Derek Leung

Stars fans have commented in all three starts Kari Lehtonen has made this season so far about how he just doesn't look like himself.

His puck handling has been shaky at times. He comes out to play the puck and it can turn into an adventure. The defense has saved at least one goal from going in with a sliding dive across Lehtonen's crease when he flubbed a puck clear down the boards. He's tossed the puck over the glass on the penalty kill on what should have been a routine clear.

"Soft goals" have been let in. While that's not a scientific term, these are the ones that, to the eye, Lehtonen has usually made the save on when he's on top of his game. The long shot from Duncan Keith that was unattested and he had a clear view of could be considered one of those types, and it seems he's letting in at least one of these per game.

Rebounds have been another problem area. Instead of swallowing pucks Lehtonen has been putting pucks out in front of him on rebounds, and they don't always look like the controlled types of rebounds that goaltenders often try for. They are the rebounds in the juicy parts of the ice -- prime scoring spots like the slot area.

Amid all of this, though, Lehtonen's numbers are actually pretty good: 1.95 goals against average and a .933 save percentage with a 2-0-1 record so far. (Take out the Jordie Benn own-goal and that goals against number looks even shinier.)

Yes, it's been a bit more scrambled in their own end then maybe we expected to start the season.

Part of that is the five man units trying to figure out how to work as cohesive groups. There are obvious cracks in communication between the forward group and the defensive pairings, particularly on the penalty kill. Lehtonen's even strength save percentage is a stellar .970 while on the penalty kill he's sporting a sub-par .833 save percentage. That's just as much a by-product of the team in front of him as his own play in the man disadvantage.

Part of that has been the relative inexperience of the defense in front. The Stars are letting about 30 shots per game at their goaltender, something that they should reduce as the games pass by. While Lehtonen does seem to do better facing more shots than less, a dirty analysis has shown his 'sweet spot' to come when he's facing around 25-28 shots a game. After that, his save percentage starts to sink.

But even with all of that, the Stars are only allowing two goals against when their main man is in the pipes. With his save percentage at a very respectable rate, we should expect the team to continue to do well long enough for Lehtonen to settle back into the rhythm of the season.

Perspective is good this early in the season. And my perspective is that Kari Lehtonen is doing just fine.

Keep calm and Kari on.