This is not what the Dallas Stars had in mind when they traded for Tim Thomas.
In the heat of a battle for the playoffs with the season winding down, the Stars found themselves carrying a three-game losing streak heading to face the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were one of the hottest teams in the league heading into Thursday night having gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games. Dallas’ slump pushed them out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference and their confidence was wavering.
This was a perfect situation for Thomas to step up and show what he was brought to Dallas for. As a veteran goalie with lots of experience under his belt, he was counted on to provide Kari Lehtonen some extra rest without causing a drop-off in goaltending.
It’s true the Stars’ defense did not necessarily look stellar against the Flyers, but the two back-breaking goals of the game were shots that Thomas — and any goaltender in the NHL for that matter — is expected to stop.
The first goal Thomas should have stopped came 12:21 into the third period. Wayne Simmonds gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead when he skated into the zone and ripped a wrist shot from beyond the left circle that sneaked in past Thomas’ blocker. A distant wrist shot with no screen or deflection involved should not go in on any goalie, let alone a distinguished veteran.
The second goal, the one that for all intents and purposes ended the game at 4-2, came with 3:12 left in regulation. Dallas’ defense parted down the middle allowing Michael Raffl to skate in with speed right at Thomas. Raffl was forced to his backhand, but Thomas could not stop him from tucking the puck under him near the left post. Thomas guessed the move and shot correctly, but he did not position himself well enough to make a save that he has made countless times before.
Even the first goal of the game was one that Thomas probably should have stopped. Mark Streit blasted a shot off the faceoff to the right of Dallas’ net a little over midway through the first period. The puck went through Erik Cole’s legs and past a baffled Thomas.
These are the kinds of goals that essentially led to Dan Ellis being traded out of town. The Stars wanted better than this. They needed better than this.
The loss to the Flyers extended the Stars’ losing streak to four games. They remain in ninth place in the Western Conference, but the Phoenix Coyotes are slowly pulling away thanks to a three-game winning streak of their own.
If there was any doubt that the Stars would have to rely heavily on Lehtonen for the final stretch of the regular season, Thursday night cleared those doubts. With 13 games remaining and a gap growing between them and a playoff spot, the Stars will look to Lehtonen to be a brick wall and help them fight back up the standings.