The Stars traded Anders Lindback and a third-round pick for Jhonas Enroth back on February 11th. At the time, Enroth had put up a serviceable SV% of .903 in Buffalo, a city where defense and possession are more of a theoretical concept than anything else. He was a goalie who seemed to have made the most of an impossible situation, and the desperate Stars were bound to find themselves at least a bit relieved to have a goalie partner for Lehtonen who didn't come with a giant question mark over his head.
Anders Lindback, meanwhile, had spent his days in Dallas seeing himself supplanted by Jussi Rynnas once, before being eventually replaced by, well, lots and lots of Kari Lehtonen. Lindback, of course, was just about the worst statistical goalie in the league during his stay in Dallas, putting up an odious .875 in 10 games, winning two of them. In other words, opponents' net shooting percentage against Dallas with Lindback in net was equivalent to that of Zach Parise this season. It is tough to face an entire team of Zach Parises.
But Enroth, as we know, did not find himself transmogrified into the True Goalie we had thought to be obscured behind the shackled phantasm that inhabited the Buffalo crease. Intstead, Enroth's SV% somehow plummeted even further, to the tune of 30 points. He landed at .873, a number that math tells us is lower than even Lindback's .875 was.
And how has Lindback fared in Buffalo, a barren land of hockey which shipped out almost every half-decent NHLer on the roster at the trade deadline in Enroth's wake? Well, you know the answer to that, of course: he's been fantastic.
He has a 2.41 goals against average and .934 save percentage. Has he cemented himself as a starter of the future? Hardly.
But he looks way, way better and NHL-caliber once again, at age 26. On Tuesday night he stopped 43 Boston shots on goal in a 2-1 shootout win.
What has been the difference? Latvia’s favorite goaltender still believed in Lindback:
But Lindback stopped 35 of 38 shots and went 2 for 3 in the shootout in Monday’s 4-3 loss to Washington in First Niagara Center. (Coach Ted) Nolan and goaltending coach Arturs Irbe decided they wanted to test him in a back-to-back situation, and Lindback came through in fine fashion.
"He’s the one who saw something with this kid," Nolan said of Irbe. "He worked with him, worked with him. We were thinking about going with Hackett, and he said, ‘Hey let’s put him back in.’ He has a real good feel for goaltenders, and he’s doing a great job."
And if anything, this has to make you wonder about the Dallas Stars’ defensive system. If Buffalo’s is somehow better, maybe Kari Lehtonen’s 2.91 goals against average and .905 save percentage aren’t so horrible.
"All season I’ve been feeling good but haven’t got it done," Lindback said. "I don’t know. Sometimes it’s just small things. You need that first save. It puts you in a good spot and right now I’m feeling good.
Heck, even Dan Ellis is managing to hold down the fort in Florida for a few games. This is getting out of hand.
Sure, it's a small sample size, and nobody really thinks that Lindback is suddenly going to be a quality NHL starter over 60 games just yet; but the combination of Enroth's drop and Lindback's surge certainly forces one to think--and I'm not sure the Stars' "defensive system" is the only thing people are pointing fingers at.
True, the Stars allow the fifth-most scoring chances per 60 minutes in the NHL, but they also create the second-most as well. [Per War-on-Ice] This team plays wide open, but they are not as loose defensively as Buffalo, who allows the most chances by far. And even if they were, it seems absurd that the goalies would, instead of staying roughly level, suddenly contract Sergei Gonchar disease as soon as they land in the Western Conference. Besides, Dallas is a net positive team in every single metric you look at. If the team's play is somehow making the goalies perform worse, they're doing it in ways I haven't found measurements for just yet.
It's early days, of course, and we know that save percentage is the furthest thing from stable even over 30 games, let alone seven to ten. But considering both what has happened in the Dallas crease and what has happened when goalies have left it lately, you can be sure Jim Nill is going to politely request some answers regarding which prankster has been hiding baby echidnas in the goalies' pads before each game this year.
I guess you could take one bit of solace from that Yahoo article, though: if Lindback can go from .875 to .934 in Buffalo, then Kari Lehtonen could post a save percentage of .960+ with a similar switch. That's just science.
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Are you ready to watch hockey again tonight? I sure hope you are because it is happening even if you are not ready, and boy oh boy would that be embarrassing for you.
John Klingberg is ready to play hockey again. It feels like ages. [Stars]
The Stars have been statistically excellent lately. Guess if that means they get to go to the playoffs! [DMN]
And hey, John Klingberg is exceeding expectations more than any other rookie out there, says Jared Clinton. I agree, Jared. (Hey, Ep. 1 of the new season of Community had a sly little line involving the ad slogan, "I got it at Jared." I wonder if this Jared is related to that one? Probably. [THN]
Dallas will be returning to Traverse City for the annual prospect tournament again next year. [Red Wings]
Stars prospect Remi Elie was voted Hardest Working Player in the West by OHL coaches. [Erie Otters]
Chicago held on to top the Rangers 1-0 last night. Yay, the NHL is fixed now because the Rangers' backup goalie can hold Chicago to one goal. That's what I'm talking about! Where do I buy tickets for this craaaazy action? [NHL]
Ryan Miller will be out until the playoffs, assuming Vancouver doesn't totally choke. [SI]
Nazem Kadri got four games for the concussion-inducing hit he gave Matt Fraser. [CBC]
You know how Mike Green misses his old Easton Stealth CNT sticks? Well, some fans decided to return the autographed ones they had from way back when. Green was thrilled. My goodness, this is ever so cool. [RMNB]
Highly recommend this piece on the long road to discovering a photo of Guy Lafleur with a 15-year-old Mario Lemieux in the stands right behind him. [Montreal Gazette]
Justin Bourne had a nice piece on what goes into "chirping" the opponents on the ice. [The Score]
Sean McIndoe has a look at the most obscure goalie records, but mainly just read this for the old Ron Hextall/Chris Chelios video, because I never see it coming. [Grantland]
Finally, this is what Dustin Brown is for: