You can probably make the case that Kari Lehtonen really rounded into form this season with Tuesday's win over the Arizona Coyotes, but it was his play Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings that made the NHL sit up and take notice.
The Dallas Stars goalie threw his name into the ring for save of the year with his astounding glove grab on Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings in the second period, a save that said he is well and truly back to his old self.
Even the Kings always-snarky Twitter feed was duly impressed.
Oh my. We might even have to GIF that save.— LA Kings (@LAKings) November 14, 2014
It was only the No. 2 play of the night on ESPN's SportsCenter because a.) there was some really terrible defense on a last-seconds inbounds play in the NBA and b.) they're still bitter the Columbus Blue Jackets burned them a few days ago, but we all know it goes No. 1 in our hearts.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who has at times been critical of his goalies early this season, said the way Lehtonen has looked the past two games, including the save to end all saves, is the best sign yet.
"To me he looks like his old self. He’s more aggressive. He’s on his toes. Before he looked a little bit on the nervous side, but now he is playing."
Here's the save again with the Dallas call:
And here it is from LA, which has a fun ice-level angle where you can see the fans behind the net start celebrationg as well as a great reaction shot of the Stars bench right after the save. I love Klingberg's face in that shot:
Two measly wins in a row never felt so good.
With the obvious out of the way, here' s more news and notes from around the NHL:
- Here's your Stars media recaps of the game, which understandably put a lot of emphasis on Lehtonen's play as well as the way the Stars finally had some good energy that they sustained throughout the game. [DallasNews.com/DallasStars.com]
- The Los Angeles media, meanwhile, was concerned with the loss of defenseman Alec Martinez to an apparent injury after blocking a shot with his hand. [Jewels From the Crown]
- Lehtonen's heriocs not only put him among the Stars of the game this time around, but they also earned him one of Puck Daddy's honors as well. [Puck Daddy]
- I really enjoyed this story from Mike Heika about the language barrier that is probably a bigger issue in hockey than any other North American professional sport, if only because of the lack of a common "second language" like Spanish. Also, I would pay all my money for a game against the Blues with both Steve Ott and Antoine Roussel mic'd up. [DallasNews.com]
- So you might have heard already that Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks have the mumps. But that's also the mystery illness that's taken out some St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and even referees and linesmen so far this year. It makes a little bit of sense, if only because the MMR vaccine can lose its effectiveness in adulthood and is about 90 percent effective for mumps to begin with and because mumps is very contagious well before symptoms start showing up, but still. Mumps. Get it together NHL - I've already got so many terrible mumps song jokes stuck in my head. [ProHockeyTalk]
- There was some really sad news out of the Ottawa Senators organization late Thursday when it was revealed that general manager Bryan Murray has stage 4 colon cancer that is past the point of being curable. This video from TSN is more than seven minutes but well worth your time. Our thoughts are with him, the organization, his family and friends. [TSN]
- I always like reading about some of the mundane details of the NHL lifestyle, from how practice is more than just the hour on the ice to superstitions like stick use in practice versus a game. This detailed interview with Nicklas Backstrom gives all that and more. [Hockey Ramblings]
- In slightly better health news, the tumor doctors removed from Olli Maatta's neck did indeed come back as cancerous, but the cancer was caught very early and is extremely treatable with minimal treatment beyond surgery. The Penguins think he might be ready to return to the ice very soon. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- Seriously, folks, get screened when it's time for a test, whether that's a prostate exam or Pap smear, a colonoscopy or mammogram. I spend a chunk of my free time around kids with cancer, and if you take the preventative screening seriously and catch things early, many of the diseases are very treatable.
- Since I can't leave you on that sad note, here's two concerned parents at Tuesday's game in Arizona during the Brenden Dillon fight. Check them out right in the front row.