The Dallas Stars have several glaring problems plaguing them at the moment, but there is one thing that can play a big role in getting them back on track to make the playoffs.
Kari Lehtonen has been the hero for the Stars over the past four seasons. Whether the team played well in front of him or not, they could rely on Lehtonen to be there for big saves and to cover up their mistakes. If they want to have a chance at making the playoffs, they will need their star goalie to return to elite form and be their hero the rest of the season.
It is a lot to ask of a goalie when the defense is struggling in front of him and the team keeps handing turnovers to the other team in Dallas’ zone. Lehtonen is used to it. He has played on worse teams than this season’s Stars and with less dependable defense in front of him.
Lindy Ruff has made speed, team defense and puck-possession important elements of the team’s style this season. When they carry out those elements effectively, they are capable of taking down the league’s best teams and stringing together wins. With the Stars struggling over the last three games, an elevated game from their goaltender can spread to the rest of the team.
Lehtonen’s first game back from a concussion ended in a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night. It was not all on Lehtonen, though. He was not at his best, but the team in front of him did not help him much either. The Stars are not in need of a shutout or 55-save performance. They just need him to be his usual self with stable, calm outings in net that provide confidence and comfort to the rest of the team that he will save the day when needed.
Tim Thomas played well while Lehtonen was hurt, but the Stars need their top goalie back. They have been looking to the sky more often recently after all the mistakes and goals conceded over the past three games. They have been looking for help and answers. They have been looking for a hero. Their hero is back. He just needs to change out of his suit and black-framed glasses and into his usual victory green cape with the No. 32 on the back.