Dallas Stars Daily Links: Nobody Really Understands Goalies Anymore
Okay the jig is up--let's just admit none of us know how goaltending works at all these days. Also, the Rangers thought they were going to overtime before they didn't, and the Ducks might still be scoring goals while you're reading this.
Kari Lethonen had the best season of his career in 2013-14 and led the Stars to the playoffs. After a rough exit in six games against [censored] in the playoffs, Lehtonen then proceeded to stuff a Thrashers jersey under his Stars sweater and put up one of his most forgettable seasons ever during 2014-15. If you just go by unadjusted SV%, it was, in fact, his worst.
During the vast majority of his time in Dallas, however, Lehtonen has been quite good, usually winding up in the top 10-15 full-time goalies of the league. Besides that, Lehtonen's durability has been just fine in the last three seasons. Really, it's true: he played 36 of 42 games during the lockout season, and he's played 65 games in both of the last two years. The lowest amount of games he's played in a full season since coming to Dallas? 59. He's been more durable than Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist over the past few years, and even though you surely have a snarky comment about how maybe that wasn't a good thing considering his play this year, it's important to have healthy goalies.
At least, it used to be. This year, however, amazing goalies seemed to be crawling out from the least likely hiding spots you could ever imagine. Scott Darling, Andrew Hammond and, of course, Devan Dubnyk all showed up with the stench of the minors all over them before they sat down at the Hockey Computer and ran filename:Elite_Goaltending.exe. The Stars, meanwhile, tried four different goalies in their crease, and Jhonas Enroth seemed to be the one Lindy Ruff settled on as "old reliable" when all was said and done. Goaltending is a fairy tale that nobody has ever read, and the ending keeps changing anyway.
Josh Bogorad is continuing his On the Radar column because he cares about us, and he touched on the goaltending sorcery that took place this season re: Darling, Dubnyk and Hammond:
The point of all of these stories is that this year has proved that it is extremely difficult - if not virtually impossible - to correctly predict what you're going to get out of your goaltender. The Stars themselves experienced an unexpected swing. A year ago, Dallas probably doesn't make the playoffs if not for Lehtonen's brilliance. This year they were often looking for "that save" that they didn't get.
Additionally, this season exhibited that while changes can easily come from year-to-year, they also come from night-to-night within the same season. Take the opening round of the playoffs as an example.
Remember the three big stories? Dubnyk, Hammond, and Darling? Well, let's look at how the first round treated them.
Dubnyk held his form in the playoffs and led his club to a six-game upset victory. He sparkled in the decisive final two games, stopping 66 of 68 shots against as Minnesota advanced.
His Eastern Conference counterpart, meanwhile, did not have the same success. Hammond went winless in two playoff games, including allowing a key soft goal in overtime, and in the process, surrendered Ottawa's starting job back to Craig Anderson.
By the way, Anderson, who in over 400 career NHL games has a combined 2.72 GAA and .915 save percentage, was incredible for the rest of the series. He stopped 138 of 142 shots in four playoff games with a 0.97 GAA and .972 save percentage. Go figure.
Darling's incredible story also took a twist. After allowing only four goals on 127 shots in his first three games, he allowed seven on his next 40. He was pulled in Game Six, and Crawford, who had allowed nine goals in four periods, played 49 minutes of shutout hockey to lead the Blackhawks to a series-clinching win over Nashville. Ah, the circle of goaltending. These kind of swings make Jekyll and Hyde look like identical twins.
Sometimes hot stays hot. Sometimes it becomes lukewarm. And other times it turns ice cold. So, how can you make the proper decision when the best goaltenders in the world are susceptible to such a rapid rise or fall in performance at any time?
If you're expecting a nice little wrap here, I don't have one. This season simply serves to remind us that goaltending is some kind of brain parasite that occasionally tells us to jump into a stranger's convertible at a red light and steal their cigarette lighter plug thing to cook the wedge salad we're making in the parking garage. Carey Price has already decided that he will win the Hart Trophy even though Ovechkin scored 53 goals, and pretty much everyone is going along with it. Nothing makes sense anymore once the puck heads towards the blue paint, I tells ya.
That uncertainty is what makes me pretty sure that the Stars won't be completely revamping the crease this offseason. You could acquire the best goalie in the world today, but this past season proved that he could forget how gravity works by October. For all we know, Kari Lehtonen could put up a 1.152 save percentage next year and break mathematics forever. I'm sure Jim Nill is looking at every option he can to increase the crease quality, but darned if I don't have just about zero idea what effect any of those moves might have when it comes to how many goals find the back of the Stars' net next season.
(Should still totally trade for Karl Alzner, though.)
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Have you ever played miniature golf holes that have the "automatic hole-in-one" things if you putt the ball into the right chute? I think those are unethical.
"Dallas Stars amateur scout Bob Gernander has been named the 2015 recipient of the American Hockey Coaches Association’s (AHCA) John Mariucci Award. The Mariucci Award was created to honor a secondary school association coach who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and enthusiasm of the "Godfather of U.S. hockey," John Mariucci." [DMN]
Remember that time Lindy Ruff pulled the goalie in the first period and Jamie Benn scored on Carey Price? Here are that and nine other highlights of Jamie Benn's marvelous season all in one convenient place. I watched them all because I am an adult. [Hockey Writers]
Jack Campbell is going to play some international hockey games for the grownup Team USA. That's pretty cool. [Todays Slapshot]
My #playoffprediction about the Flames/Ducks series may be jeopardy after the Flames effectively wore gorilla suits and cross country skis to their hockey game last night. My new prediction: Ducks in three. Three games total. [NHL]
The Rangers thought they had survived a Washington barrage last night, but Joel Ward's last-second goal at 19:59 (from a ridiculous pass by Ovechkin) led the Caps to a 2-1 victory. [NHL]
I don't understand what the Masterton Trophy is supposed to honor. Here are your nominees: Dubnyk, 'Burgles and Letang. [NHL]
Groan-worthy article title aside, this is a nice piece on Chicago backup Scott Darling's battle to turn his life around. [ESPN]
Do the Flyers need to pay Mike Babcock $Texas in order to get him into Philly? [Hockey Writers]
John Tavares is honored to have been nominated for the Hart Trophy, although "confused" might be a more accurate word for people evaluating actual performance, but whatever, I'm so over it. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, check out this goal by Ovechkin last night. I still say he has the hardest wrist shot I have ever seen in person: