Oct 11, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
The funny thing about all the doom and gloom regarding Brad Richards‘ Dallas Stars departure is that he might not have been the team’s MVP last season. Kari Lehtonen deserves an equal claim to that title, at worst.
Lehtonen won both of his starts so far this season while facing a barrage of pucks. Only two out of 79 shots pierced the Finnish netminder, as he frustrated the Chicago Blackhawks and what must have been an angry Phoenix Coyotes team.
The Stars fell one win short of the playoffs last season, but Lehtonen plugged a lot of leaks for a leaky Dallas defense. He managed to win 34 games last season while stopping the fourth most shots in the NHL, but the worry remains that Lehtonen’s injury-riddled past will catch up to him.
My guess is that five teams are close to sure things to make it in the West: the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. The rest of the field is wide open, although the Nashville Predators have been all-business so far. Even assuming that the Predators make it six, I’d say it comes down to the Stars wrestling with four teams for one of two spots: the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
Jamie Benn‘s star is clearly rising, but make no mistake about it: Lehtonen is the team’s most crucial player. Do you think Lehtonen can pull it off? Let us know in the comments.
- NHL, Coyotes deny report that team is moving to Vegas 23
- Report: Richards’ border incident involved oxycodone 46
- Trade: Bieksa headed to California — but it’s Anaheim, not San Jose 20
- Trade: Jackets land Saad, Anisimov and Dano headed to Chicago 85
- Hamilton signs six-year deal with Flames 18
- Sharks get Jones from Bruins for first-round pick and unsigned prospect 42
- Hurricanes to buy out Semin 15
- Bruins are talking to teams about Savard, but not Rask 13
- Report: Richards part of police investigation 47
- UFA of the Day: Mike Green 5
- Trade: Flyers send Rinaldo to Bruins for 2017 third-rounder (105)
- Bypassing a buyout? Kings terminate Richards’ contract for ‘material breach’ (90)
- Trade: Jackets land Saad, Anisimov and Dano headed to Chicago (87)
- Trade: Flames land Dougie Hamilton for package of picks (75)
- Trade: Busy Bruins send Lucic to Kings (66)