Thursday, September 8, 2011
Dallas Stars outlook: Goaltending
By Mark Stepneski
FRISCO -- One year ago there were some questions about the Dallas Stars goaltending. Kari Lehtonen answered them.
Lehtonen, hampered by injuries and conditioning issues in the past, put together a solid 2010-11 season, playing in a career-high 69 games and tying a career-high with 34 wins. His 2.55 goals against average was a career-best and his .914 save percentage was the second best of his career.
Now, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk would like to see Lehtonen, who will turn 28 in November, build on last season.
“I think his focus this year is: OK, I’m back, I’m a good goalie, now I want to show everybody I am an elite goalie,” said Nieuwendyk. “I think he is going to have a terrific year.”
If there was one issue surrounding Lehtonen last season, it might have been the workload. Nieuwendyk felt Lehtonen proved he is capable of carrying a big load but the Stars may have emptied his tank a bit when they played him the final 23 games of the season as the team tried to secure a playoff spot.
“I’d like to see him play less,” Nieuwendyk said. “Not that it’s too much, it just that the bulk of it was at the end. I thought we wore him out. I think he showed everybody that he can come back and handle that, although we did make him tired.”
When it comes to dividing up time between Lehtonen and backup Andrew Raycroft, Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said he won’t go into the season with a set number of games for each guy.
“I like to go a little bit by feel during the season. If Lehts is tired then we have to back off and Razor is playing good then we have to give him a little bit more. You just can’t set those things in stone,” Gulutzan said. “Obviously we have a No.1, but you also want to leave the ability for your players to perform to max capacity. To say to Razor that you are only going to play 15-20 games, that pigeon-holes him. It doesn’t let him shine.
“We have a general guide, but I am not afraid to move it five each way because if we get good performances out of guys that is what we are trying to get, from both our goalies.”
The Stars got some good performances last season out of Raycroft, who posted an 8-5-0 record, 2.83 goals against average and .910 save percentage in 19 games. But after rough outings against Calgary (7 goals on 19 shots) and Boston (2 goals on 2 shots) his playing dropped significantly and he hardly played down the stretch. The Stars are counting on him seeing some more time this season.
“Razor is a quality veteran. He had some great games for us last year,” said Nieuwendyk. “I know his focus is good right now and I know the coaches’ focus is good on getting him the number of games he needs to get.”
Below Lehtonen and Raycroft the Stars will have Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany, who both are expected to play with the Texas Stars of the AHL this season.
Bachman took over the No. 1 job with Texas last season after Brent Krahn went down with an injury and performed very well.
“It really showed us he can be a top goaltender in the American League,” said Dallas goaltending coach Mike Valley. “He’s the type of guy, it doesn’t matter where he is playing, he always plays well, he’s always winning and you can’t say enough about the kid. This year is another huge year for him to show that he can take another step forward.”
Beskorowany will push Bachman for playing time in Cedar Park. He started with Idaho of the ECHL last season, and was impressive. He finished the season with Texas and played well in what was his first year as a pro.”
“Because of Brent Krahn getting hurt he got pushed forward a year and he handled it great,” said Valley. “Every time he went in there he handled it really well. … We were extremely happy with the way he played in the American League. It bumped up his development a year. It was great.”
Dallas Stars 2011-12 Goaltenders