When the Dallas Stars traded backup goaltender Dan Ellis to the Florida Panthers for Tim Thomas at the trade deadline, Thomas was expected to be able to let Kari Lehtonen rest and elevate his play a little. It looks like he will be doing much more than that for the rest of the season.
Lehtonen suffered a concussion Saturday night when Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula crashed the Dallas net 6:37 into the third period. Lehtonen and Haula’s heads collided, knocking Lehtonen’s mask off, and the back of his head hit the crossbar. He held his head writhing in pain for a couple of minutes before being helped off the ice. Stars fans chanted “Kari! Kari!” as he was taken to the locker room. If this had happened a week ago, the arena would have been silenced with panic. Instead, there is hope.
In yet another shrewd, quietly surprising move by general manager Jim Nill, the Stars added a backup who is more than capable of carrying the load the rest of the season if needed. The team and fans hope for Lehtonen’s quick recovery, but if his concussion keeps him out for a while, they can take solace in Thomas.
Thomas brings a pedigree of success, confidence and fiery competitiveness that can help maintain Dallas’ push for the playoffs. In 2011, Thomas won three game 7s en route to a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. He can handle pressure. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2008-09 and in 2010-11, so it was not that long ago that he displayed his ability to be one of the best goalies in the league. He maintains his athleticism, competitiveness and will to never give up on a play.
The Stars brought Thomas in to help take some of the pressure off Lehtonen in the final stretch of the season. Instead, all the pressure is now on Thomas to guide them to the playoffs. Fortunately, they have a backup goalie who is more than capable of carrying the load.