Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars is one of those workhorse goaltenders in the NHL, one of those guys who are fully expected to play the vast majority of a team’s games in any given season–barring injury or other issues, that is. Another workhorse like Lehtonen is, interestingly enough, fellow Finn Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators.
Even though the Stars have a few solid goaltending options in their stable, including Richard Bachman, expect to see Lehtonen’s #32 out there on the ice more often than not. He’s already played in nine of Dallas’ games so far this season and started eight of them, after all, and is expected to start tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. That game, by the way, is the only game in town if you’re looking to enjoy watching any NHL action since the other 28 teams all have tonight off.
With a 5-1-2 record under his belt so far, Lehtonen is among the league leaders for wins by a netminder, though he’s tied with three fellow goalies. He has a 2.46 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage, which are decent, but not among the best in the league. Still, the Stars are going to use him like a prized stallion: he played 69 games in 2010-11 and 59 in 2011-12, that second number reduced only due to an injury.
But when Lehtonen makes big saves like these, who can blame Dallas for wanting to ride the hot hand?
Even the opposition’s announcers are in awe:
He’s been called a guru of the goal line:
Sometimes, he even gets a little attitude, like when he lost a shutout and told fans of the opposing team where to look:
The fact that most videos of his saves include adjectives like “unbelievable,” “amazing” and “spectacular” shows that when he works hard, he works hard.
Perhaps Lehtonen’s only flaw is that he doesn’t have much playoff experience. The two NHL teams he’s played for, the former Atlanta Thrashers and now the Stars, haven’t been part of the post-game party for a while now. In fact, during his tenure in Dallas, he has never seen the postseason–and he’s been in Texas since 2009-10. Right now, the Stars are right below that thick line separating the West’s top eight from those teams outside the playoffs looking in, but if the team continues to put together successful games, they could jump above that line and hopefully stay there.
But Lehtonen is talented, sassy, goofy (he’s had pictures of Chuck Norris on his mask before, among other fun things) and one of the most important links in the Dallas chain. The Stars recognize this: they have him on for five years at nearly $30 million, after all.