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Could the Dallas Stars Have Trouble Between the Pipes, Again?

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(Important caveat: It’s the preseason.)

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
Kari Lehtonen has been the better goalie this preseason, outplaying the recently acquired Ben Bishop.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Ben Bishop was acquired in the offseason to solidify the carousel known as the Dallas Stars goaltender position.

Bishop is a former All Star and has been among the top goalies in the league for several years.

Through five periods of preseason hockey, though, that has not been the case.

In two appearances, Sept. 19 against St. Louis and Sept. 25 against Colorado, Bishop has surrendered 6 goals on 38 shots (.842 save percentage).

Yes, it is preseason hockey. Yes, the everyday lineup hasn’t been out there. But early results are not what head coach Ken Hitchcock and GM Jim Nill wanted to see, especially after the disaster that was the 2016-17 season.

What makes Bishop’s number so perplexing, is the surprising play of Kari Lehtonen.

In three appearances, Lehtonen has given up 5 goals on 74 shots (.932 save percentage). Lehtonen’s best performance came on Tuesday against Central Division rival Minnesota. The Finn’ went 32-33, earning the 4-1 win.

Bishop’s last start was on Sept. 25 against Colorado, where he surrendered 3 goals on 23 shots in a 4-2 loss.

Bishop’s issues began long before this rough stretch to begin his Dallas Stars career. He was on his way to having a Vezina-Trophy worthy season in 2015-16, posting a record of 35-21, with a .926 save percentage and 2.06 GAA.

However, a knee injury during Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals forced him out of the postseason.

Bishop injured his knee once again in December of 2016 against Detroit, costing him to miss nine games. Before the injury, Bishop struggled: 9-10-2, .907 save percentage and 2.79 GAA.

Statistically, Bishop had the worst season of his career last year. Splitting time between Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Kings, Bishop went just 18-15-5 in 39 games, with a GAA of 2.52 and save percentage of .91.

Bishop didn’t see much time between the pipes in L.A., winning twice in just six starts.

The issues surrounding Lehtonen have been chronicled before. He went 22-25-7 with a 2.85 GAA and a .902 save percentage, the lowest of his career, while splitting time with Antti Niemi last season.

Compounding the goalie issues will be, again, a young defense. While Nill acquired veteran Marc Methot, names like John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell, Julius Honka and Jamie Oleksiak will see considerable minutes.

The change in philosophy from Hitchcock, and the learning curve that may take place early in the season, could lead to defensive breakdowns and a need for big save, or two.

It is still October. Bishop will likely start and play the full 60 minutes in the final preseason game Saturday against Minnesota. And after all, preseason is preseason. (Ed. NB: The Avalanche went undefeated in last year’s preseason.)

But no matter what, for Dallas to compete and possibly win the Central Division, the goalie play must improve.