Reading Brandon's column yesterday brought back memories of one of my first posts last year in which I ran through the last decade or so of the Stars' backup goalie position. To save you the pointless click, I basically said that there has been Mike Smith, one Andrew Raycroft season where he won like eight games, and not much else in the Stars' baseball cap model position. It wasn't exactly revelatory. But looking back, the thing that jumps out even more is that Kari Lehtonen has never enjoyed anything close to a suitable backup during his time with the Stars. Even that one decent Andrew Raycroft season in 2010-11 was only 13 games' worth, leaving Kari to hold down the fort for the other 69 games. That is four more games than Kari played last year while accumulating his league-leading icetime with Dan Ellis and Tim Thomas backing him up, and it is also roughly the same amount of games he is currently on-pace for in 2014-15.
It comes down to this: the oft-echoed refrain is that the Stars want to give Kari some rest, they don't want him worn down by the final stretch of the season, they know that a capable backup will be good for him. Kari, I'm sure, hears these things as well, and as much as any elite goalie wants to start every game, he'd probably be fine with closer to 60 than 70 games a year, too. But the other refrain we generally start reading toward the second half of the season is that Kari can be addictive, especially when you're in a tight race for the playoffs. Marc Crawford, Glen Gulutzan, and now Lindy Ruff have all shown that they are going to be riding Kari in back-to-backs and ten-game stretches when the team is flagging in the standings. It's understandable, and everyone wants to win, but one can only imagine how intimidating the Stars might be should they ever again stumble upon a backup worthy of seizing the reins for more than a handful of games each year.
Of course, the last time Lehtonen faced one of those was in Atlanta, and his backup was, of course, Johan Hedberg. The Thrashers still got swept in their lone playoff appearance because Evil still existed in those days, and it had a way of hurting the ones you loved most:
Oh, for a day when the Stars have a goalie controversy again, eh? Those have generally worked out pretty well for the Stars, though as it's hard to come out a loser when the names involved are Turek, Belfour, Turco or Smith.
Mike Heika tossed his two cents into the Stars' backup goalie abyss as well, and it's worth a moment of your time, as usual. I particularly enjoyed these little flashbacks:
In a campaign filled with ups and downs, Ellis had some of the biggest wins in some of the toughest situations. While Kari Lehtonen was struggling in late November and early December, Ellis provided a safety net that would prove critical at season’s end. He beat Anaheim, 6-3, on Nov. 26, had 27 saves in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia Dec. 7, and came up huge in taking a 3-2 win against Colorado Dec. 17.
Now, we all know Ellis unraveled after that and was traded for Tim Thomas, who had his own share of problems. But while Thomas was just 2-4-1 in a Stars uniform, he also had a huge win for himself. The night after the Stars had their game canceled against Columbus because of Rich Peverley’s cardiac event, Thomas made 28 saves and led Dallas to an emotional 3-2 overtime win in St. Louis March 11.
The year before, Richard Bachman came off a 12-game Lehtonen run of starts and beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3. He also had a 5-1 win against Los Angeles in a game that was tied 1-1 after two periods, and followed that with wins over San Jose and Nashville.
The year before that, Bachman was called in for his NHL debut while Lehtonen was hurt and Andrew Raycroft was struggling and beat LA at Staples Center, 2-1. He also walked into United Center and beat the Blackhawks 3-1 that season. [DMN]
Give the whole thing a read while remembering that Mike Heika has been the beat writer for the Stars since before many of you were alive.
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All of you Dallas folks with your earthquakes and such. So cute. Well, I live in California, and a little thing like an earthquake does not scare me. Of course, the weather getting bitterly cold, well...that's another matter.
Razor has a delightful trove of unused tidbits from the first half of the season, which I highly recommend. Don't miss my favorite Colton Sceviour picture. [Stars]
Along the Boards wonders if Jason Demers has been a key factor in the Stars' recent winning ways. [AtB]
Fantastic piece on Matt Fraser after his trade to Edmonton. Apparently it's tough being a young player in Boston. Who would have guessed? [Oilers Nation]
Speaking of Boston, they defeated Pittsburgh in OT last night after a long video review of a Patrice Bergeron deflection during which Jeremy Jacobs surely sent a couple of strongly emoji-laden texts to the officiating crew. [NHL]
Randy Carlyle isn't going the Ron Wilson route, saying he is "at peace" with his dismissal. [Toronto Star]
Phil Kessel is a bit less at peace about the Toronto Media, says the Toronto Media. [SportsNet]
James Neal isn't the only one in Embellishment Jail anymore. Gustav Nyquist and Vincent Trocheck have received $2,000 fines, and they are both quite deserving. NHL links with video are here [Nyquist] and here [Trocheck]. Bonus points if you knew which team Trocheck played for before reading that.
Ted Leonsis says that if Puck Daddy wants to be all critical and stuff about the Road to the Winter Classic series, they should make one of their own. No, seriously, he "wrote" a little piece about it and everything. I love that you can tell no copy editor working for Ted had any desire to touch this piece before it was published. [Ted's Take]
Elliotte Friedman offers his latest roundup of the Maple Leaf circus and 30 Other Hockey Things. [SportsNet]
Finally, I literally cannot think of a better way to wrap up this post than a video of a panda cub playing in the snow for the first time ever: