Dallas Stars 2014-15 Season Grades: Kari Lehtonen

What the heck got into the Stars goalie this year, and how do they make it go away forever?

Once again it's that time of year here on Defending Big D where we take a look at each player that suited up for 20 or more games this season (and finished the season with the organization) - and take a look back at their season. What was good about it, what wasn't so good, and the lasting impression they left us as we go into summer.

Regular season statistics:

GP W L OTL Sv% GAA Shots Against 5 v 5 Sv% "High-Danger" Sv%
65 34 17 10 .9035 2.94 1875 .9145 80.69

Key Stat: 40th - Among the 42 goalies who played at least 1500 minutes in all situations this year (right around 30 games or so), Kari Lehtonen was 40th. It doesn't get much better at even strength, where he was 31st of 36 goalies to meet the 1500 minute criteria in those situations. And all signs point to an individual issue, not a team one.

Looking at the timeline breakdown at only 5 v. 5 situations, Lehtonen was 14th among 20 goalies who met "starting" criteria in the first two months of the season. Through the first three months, he was 17th of 31 - his December was actually decent, finishing just in the top half of save percentage for the starters (14 of 28). But in the second half of the year, when the Stars actually played pretty solid defense, he fell apart completely. Of the 42 goalies who played 750 or more minutes from January through the end of the regular season, Lehtonen was again 40th with a 0.907 save percentage. For even strength numbers, that's terrible, particularly considering he faced the 25th most shots per 60 in that stretch (or right about average).

The Good: If there's good news for Stars fans, it's that Lehtonen showed at least flashes of himself throughout the season. In December, and particularly near the end of the month when the Stars got on a roll, he was quite good, and he was also solid for the two-week stretch in March when everything went right. And most of his problems seemed to stemmed from what one hopes is correctable - positioning errors, especially bad angles, tracking problems, low gloves and over-committing - rather than loss of athleticism to injury or age.

The Bad: Oh where to begin. This was by far the worst season of Lehtonen's NHL career in terms of save percentage and his second-worst in goals against behind backstopping a pretty bad Atlanta Thrashers team in 2009-10. Other than those few stretches in December and March, nothing looked right about Lehtonen all year. His positioning was off. Team killed him with shots to the high glove side. His ability to track the puck through traffic was suspect. And more than almost anything else, he seemed to have a knack for giving up a bad goal just when the team needed it least.

Where Lehtonen really struggled this year was with the tough save. War on Ice defines high-danger shots as coming from areas where shooting percentages are routinely 10 or more while medium-danger shots coming from areas with shooting percentages from 4-10 percent. Lehtonen, Cam Ward and Ben Scrivens were the only three goalies to finish in the bottom 10 of the regular starters in both medium and high danger save percentage. Perhaps most indicative for him was the wild 7-6 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, where several extremely iffy goals sapped the Stars momentum in a deflating loss that should have been a big win.

Bottom Line: It's hard to pin the first two months of problems on Lehtonen alone, but as the team got better around him, Lehtonen got worse and was the single biggest reason the Stars did not head back to the playoffs. For those who argue that everything is related to the defense in front of them, the answer lies in War on Ice's adjusted save percentage, which is a "weighted-average of SvPctHigh, SvPctMed, and SvPctLow, where the weights correspond to the league-wide percentage of shots from each of those areas. In other words, this is a goalies save percentage if they faced a league average proportion of shots from each of the three shooting zones (high, medium, and low probability of success)." Lehtonen was 31st of 36 goalies who played at least 1500 5 v 5 minutes, in the company of Ward, Scrivens, Anton Khudobin, Mike Smith and Ryan Miller.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff implied Lehtonen was battling a nagging injury for at least the first part of the season, a little concerning in and of itself, but he was presumably healthy later in the year and was singled out by the coaching staff for his poor play several times. When the going got tough, Lehtonen faltered, and that's something the Stars simply could not afford this year.

Vote now: Rate Lehtonen on a scale of A to F (A being the best of course) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season.

How would you grade Kari Lehtonen's season?