Sitting comfortably with my girlfriend in section 326 Tuesday night, I watched as Antti Niemi saved the Stars time, after time, after time.
Forgetting the bonehead move he made with 5 seconds left in the second period that put Winnipeg on the board, he stopped several 2-on-1 chances, breakaways and point-blank chances surrendered by Dallas.
Tuesday was Niemi’s second home start - the first when he stonewalled Anaheim in the season opener on Oct. 13. What followed was a lackluster performance in Colorado and three Kari Lehtonen starts.
However, after Lehtonen went 0-1-1 in the first two games of the home stand against Los Angeles and Columbus, Niemi found himself back between the pipes.
Watching Niemi make save after save, it occurred to me, “Jeez, he sure is good at home.”
Which in itself raises an interesting question: Could the Stars split starts for Lehtonen and Niemi on a home-road basis?
Well, let’s look at the stats.
So far Neimi is 2-0 at home this season, giving up four goals in those starts.
In 25 games (22 starts) at the American Airlines Center last season Niemi went 15-5-2 with a 2.37 goals against average. On the road, the big Fin’ was 10-8-5 with a GAA of 2.96 in 21 starts.
In two home starts this season, Lehtonen is 0-1-1 with a GAA of 3.00. Lehtonen, in the two games (one start) away from the AAC, is 1-0 with a GAA of 1.31.
Lehtonen’s home-road record last season were very similar - 13-6-0 at home and 12-4-2 on the road.
However, his GAA (2.76) and save percentage (.912) are better on the road, if even by the slightest of margins.
The Stars goalie situation can at times turn into an episode of As the Goalie Turns. Lindy Ruff has done some of the best coaching of his entire career the past year-plus in Dallas.
From his line juggling, to handing the early-season injuries, Ruff seems to hit the chords more often than not.
However, the goalie situation in Dallas is one that has yet to be solidified.
Niemi one night. Lehtonen another night. Niemi gets hot, then cold. Lehtonen saves the day, then pulled again.
Both have played full time and have had success. Take a look back to 2013-14 when Lehtonen carried Dallas to the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. Niemi won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10.
However, both have been inconsistent during their time in Dallas, nestled in between flashes of brilliance.
The brilliance that Lehtonen showed in Nashville, and promise Neimi showed in Tuesday night could continue the rest of the season, if handled properly.