Posted on: December 27, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 5:15 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Dallas Stars are ready to get their starting goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, back in the lineup this week after he missed the past 12 games with a groin injury.
That's good news for the Stars, but it's bad news for backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft as he was informed on Tuesday that he will be placed on waivers, meaning that rookie Richard Bachman, the player called up when Lehtonen was originally sidelined with his injury, has taken over as the Stars new No. 2 goalie.
Bachman, a fourth-round draft pick by the Stars back in 2006, has appeared in nine games this season, starting eight of them, and posting a .912 save percentage. He was pretty much unbeatable during his first four appearances in the crease for Dallas, but has since slumped over his past five starts, including a 5-3 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
Still, he's looked better than Raycroft this season, as the veteran backup has struggled for much of the season with a .898 save percentage, while Dallas has won just two of the 10 games he's made an appearance in. He's played for five teams over the past seven seasons, including Dallas, Toronto, Boston, Vancouver and Colorado, and if he clears waivers Dallas will be able to assign him to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
Injuries have been a major struggle for Lehtonen throughout his NHL career, and before he missed time this season he had been playing extremely well, posting .926 save percentage in 19 starts. Dallas currently has 20-14-1 record, good enough for the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference, but is going to need strong play from its goaltenders, whether it be Lehtonen, Bachman or somebody else, as the Stars are allowing the most shots in the NHL on a per-game basis (32.5). Part of the problem is the Stars spend so much time on the penalty kill as one of the most penalized teams in the league, and because they also simply surrender a lot of shots (again, more than any other team in the league) during 5-on-5 play.
Previously at Eye On Hockey
Can Lehtonen continue his hot start?
Lehtonen placed on injured reserve
Photo: Getty Images
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Posted on: December 11, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 4:55 pm
There was concern going into this season for the people in St. Louis regarding the team's goaltending situation. Jaroslav Halak had been subpar in his first year with the Blues, exacerbating the need for a quality backup should things not improve.
So with the choices on the board, who did they sign? Brian Elliott, a castoff by both the Senators and Avalanche. His signing was so underwhelming that there was no guarantee he would even open the season with the Blues. There was an honest-to-goodness competition for the second goalie spot between he and young Blues prospect Ben Bishop.
If you've been paying attention to the first third-plus of the season, then you know how that competition turned out. But it's my duty to pretend that my readers are dumb and don't know a thing (sorry people) so I'll just tell you that Elliott won out.
And he's been winning ever since.
Despite being the "backup" to Halak, Elliott is tied for the league lead in shutouts after Saturday's blanking of the San Jose Sharks. He also leads the league with his jaw-dropping save percentage (.947) and goals against average (1.45).
"I'm satisfied, but I'm not too high on myself," Elliott said after the 1-0 victory on Saturday. "Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't."
Truth is, he has had to be that good. The Blues aren't exactly scoring like their division foes in Detroit.
While the coaching change from Davis Payne has worked wonders for the Blues and Halak, it would be unfair to credit Elliott's success to that, too. He was outstanding before the change, he's been just as excellent after it.
It's rather amazing when you think where he came from. As we mentioned, his signing was just a little underwhelming and uninspiring. Why? Consider that last season he played for both the Senators and Avalanche after a mid-season trade, a straight goalie swap for Craig Anderson. For the whole season, Elliott was 15-27-9, including 2-8-1 with the Avs. That .947 save percentage this season? Last season it was .893.
That's quite a turnaround. It's not like he's just become suitable this season, he's been outstanding. You could make the argument that he's been the MVP for the Blues this season. Honestly, I have a hard time making an argument for anybody but Elliott considering Hitchcock isn't a player.
"He seems to always be our best player in the third period," said Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored the only goal in the game. "When we're up by a goal, he's always there to make a huge save."
He had to make 11 saves in the third against the Sharks to preserve the win, obviously with no room for error.
I can't say that Elliott is the reason why the Blues are knocking on the Blackhawks' and Red Wings' doors in the Central. It would obviously neglect a lot of other factors at play. But Elliott could very well be at the top of that list.
Among a lot of the concerns surround the Capitals, one was the power play's struggles. They had recently just gone through an 0-for-17 streak -- or skid, if you'd prefer. Then the Caps scored all four goals in a 4-2 win over Toronto on Friday with the man up.
Originally three were credited to Dennis Wideman with an assist on the fourth goal, but it was reviewed at Wideman's request on Saturday and the hat trick was taken away. But for a night at least, Wideman had the first hat trick by a Capitals defenseman in more than a decade (Sergei Gonchar in 2000).
But more immediately, there is hope that the Capitals might have found some hope for the man-up. Of course, the opposite side of the coin is that it came against the Leafs.
There is no doubt that the PK continues to be the Achilles' heel for Toronto. After Friday's awful showing, the Leafs are above only the Blue Jackets in successful PKs at 74.3 percent.
When it was announced that the Dallas Stars would be without Kari Lehtonen for some time due to injury, Stars fans were right to be worried at the process of Andrew Raycroft getting more time. Not a reason for much optimism.
With the win, he likely earned himself a start for the Stars' next game Tuesday at the Rangers.
"He's a competitive guy, and he's pretty clean when it comes to rebounds," said coach Glen Gulutzan, who coached the former Colorado College goalie in the minors last season. "I just told him when he went out there, `It's the same game that you've been playing.' He has that ability, and he's going through the natural progression. He deserves another start, and most likely we'll give him that opportunity and see if he can run with it."
The two points put the Stars back on top of the Pacific Division, which has been surprising this season, and not so much in a good way. The Stars and Coyotes are tied atop the division, but they are each 10 points behind the top team in the West, the Wild. If the division winners weren't awarded the one of the top three seeds, the Stars would be the sixth seed.
On the other bench ...
What's going on with the L.A. Kings? I'll tell you one thing, Terry Murray can't be feeling very comfortable with his job these days.
There was so much hope coming into this season for the Kings. They had been growing every season, they added Mike Richards. It appeared the Kings were on their way to their best season since the days of Gretzky.
They still could be, but they'll have to right the ship in a hurry. Would you believe that there is no team in the NHL worse at scoring goals than Los Angeles? Its 2.21 goals per game ranks at the bottom of the NHL< including below the Ducks in nearby Anaheim. Nothing like low-scoring games to sell hockey in SoCal.
When your cross-town rival makes a move firing its coach and you are being booed off the ice, it's time to wonder if the end is in sight for Murray.
The Wings are good
Just in case you missed that memo.
I was getting ready to start talking about the Winnipeg Jets and how they were extremely quietly inching their way up the Eastern Conference. Then they went to Detroit and were railroaded.
The Red Wings had seven goals from six different scorers -- and none of them was Pavel Datsyuk. It was Detroit's ninth straight win at home where they are 12-2-1 this season. Those are the most wins at home for any team this season.
Some things never change.
What is it about the Battle of Alberta that the Oilers are having so many problems with?
Half of the season's six games have been played between the Oilers and Calgary Flames this season, and the boys from Edmonton have yet to pick up a single point. Against the rest of the NHL, the Oilers are 14-10-3.
The most recent rendition of the provincial rivalry saw Jarome Iginla flash some of his old form with a pair of goals and the Flames took the game 3-0.
Most everybody would agree that the Oilers are likely the better team between the two, but they just can't beat their neighbors. I guess that's why they play the game (well that and winning, right Herm?).
Quote of the weekend
If I were to take a poll of NHL fans who have the Center Ice package which announcer is the biggest homer around? I think it would be a two-horse race between Paul Steigerwald in Pittsburgh and Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards.
So for this week's QOTW, we're going to take a light-hearted look at a call from Edwards in the Bruins' win over the Blue Jackets.
On the play, Derek Dorsett is driving toward the net to try and beat Tim Thomas, but his shot attempt is stopped and he then goes skidding into the boards. Here is Edwards' call, you might be surprised (like me).
Yes, that is Edwards rather vehemently arguing against a penalty that went on an opposing player. Clearly he was right, in no way, shape or form was that goaltender interference. If anything, it was interference from Tomas in the form of a trip on Dorsett, who was a bit worse for the ware afterward.
Before you jump down my throat, calm down. I have no problems with local announcers catering to the home team, that is their audience. But sometimes it goes overboard and is comical. So when I hear somebody this adamant in another team's defense, it's "ear-catching."
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Andrew Raycroft, Ben Bishop, Boston Bruins, Brian Elliott, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Davis Payne, Dennis Wideman, Derek Dorsett, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Glen Gulutzan, Jarome Iginla, Jaroslav Halak, Kari Lehtonen, Ken Hitchcock, Kevin Shattenkirk, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Pavel Datsyuk, Richard Bachman, Sergei Gonchar, St. Louis Blues, Terry Murray, Tim Thomas, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:47 pm
It seemed like it was just a matter of time before Kari Lehtonen went down with an injury. Turns out, it was.
The Dallas Stars goaltender who was a huge reason why the Stars jumped out to the best start in the NHL, had seen a bit of a regression to the mean in recent weeks, along with his team's return to earth. Unfortunately, he's also seen a return to old times ... going down to injury.
The Stars placed Lehtonen on injured reserve on Sunday, a day after he left the Stars' 3-0 loss to the Coyotes. The Associated Press reported it as a knee injury for Lehtonen, but Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News says it's Lehtonen's troublesome groin that's the problem. The team would only call it a lower-body injury.
Lehtonen's bug-a-boo with the injury bug has been his groin. In two different seasons (05-06 and 07-08) he missed at least 16 games with different groin issues. And probably the last thing that the Stars fans want to hear, Heika fears it could be a long-term injury. Ouch.
Lehtonen has been leaned on more heavily than most goaltenders across the league. When Andrew Raycroft is your backup, you sort of see why. So for the time being, Raycroft is going to get his shot and Dallas recalled Richard Bachman to be the backup.
The Stars were already slipping. They recently suffered through a five-game losing streak and have gone 3-6-1 in their last 10. Even with that, they are still in a three-way tie atop the Pacific Division. So the time without Lehtonen will be crucial to them.
The Finnish Lehtonen has been spectacular this season for the Stars, posting a 13-4-2 record with a 2.34 goals against average and .926 save percentage.
Photo: Getty Images