Dan Ellis was signed in the offseason to provide stability and a veteran presence in the Dallas Stars‘ nets. He was supposed to be a competent enough replacement to give Kari Lehtonen enough time off to keep him fresh during the stretch run.
Prior to Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, Ellis had started seven games, posting a 4-3 record. He did not have a strong performance against Detroit, allowing three goals on 13 Red Wings’ shots against, and was pulled during the first intermission in favor of Lehtonen. While he may not play in the majority of games, Ellis is a vital player with a huge role for the Stars, and Dallas needs more from him than what he provided Saturday night.
During the last few years, one of the downfalls of the Stars has been that they have relied too heavily on Lehtonen, leading to him being burned out both mentally and physically down the stretch run. Every point in the tightly packed Western conference playoff race is crucial and odds are that Lehtonen will have extra wear and tear this year, when considering the Sochi Olympics. It is imperative that Ellis is able to not only finish the games he starts, but play well enough to give the Stars confidence to give him more than the obligatory “rest” game for Lehtonen.
On the season, Ellis now has a save percentage of 0.897 (which ranks 61st in the league) and a goals against average of 3.27 (ranking 69th among goalies). Both of those put him in the bottom third of the 79 goalies who have played this season, and five of those 79 have played two or fewer games. Currently the median save percentage is about 0.914.
If Ellis is unable to perform for the Stars, Dallas will be forced to start Lehtonen more than they plan to. Even worse, they may have to turn to Jack Campbell from Cedar Park too early, something that could potentially compromise the development of what many are hoping to be the next franchise goalie for Dallas. As we’ve seen in the past, Lehtonen needs time off here and again to stay at his best, and his best is something the Stars desperately need with the depleted defensive corps and playoff points being at a premium.
Prior to the Saturday night games, Dallas was two points out of the final playoff spot. A few more saves here or there from Ellis could make the difference between getting in the playoffs or Dallas watching from the couch yet again this summer.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.