Are Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen to blame for the Stars’ slow start



Both goalies have had their moments of greatness, but after nine games the Stars rank 24th in goals against average at 3.22 and 24th in save percentage at .893. That’s a huge reason for a 3 4 2 start.

“Those are concerning numbers,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There’s a lot of tough chances in the game, and you have to get big saves. Those two guys know they need to be better. We’ve worked hard in cutting the shots down, cutting the opportunities down. We were giving up way too many chances in the first three or four games, but we’ve done a really good job in the last two games.”

It’s a difficult debate, because only goalies really know how to do their job. So it’s tough to just say try harder or work harder. Lehtonen and Niemi are trying hard and are working hard.

“I think that would be the wrong mind set, that I have to ‘play greater.’ I want to play great every night. I think if you try to do too much, that’s wrong,” Niemi said.

“When you learn to have the same focus, then you’re going to have the chance to be Success jersey cheapful in the long run. That’s always how I have looked at it, and I think anyone who has tried to do this will agree with me.”

Niemi and Lehtonen were joined in a goalie share program last season, and while both saw their statistics decline, each had a winning record.

Lehtonen and Niemi each had 25 wins, and the Stars won the Central Division. Aided by the best offense in the NHL scoring an average of 3.23 goals per game, the goalies found a happy place where mistakes were covered and they didn’t have to be perfect.

This season, the Stars are 26th in the league in scoring at 2.22 goals per Cheap Jerseys
game, and there are losses like the overtime defeat in which Niemi allowed a 6 on 4 goal against with 15.1 seconds left to tie the game.

“That’s not on our goaltender. He gave us a chance to win,” Ruff said.

But he added: “It starts with the team first, but then you do need big saves. If you look at that game, their goaltender made some big ones.”

Bobrovsky sits seventh in the NHL with a .941 save percentage, including stopping 68 of 70 against the Stars. So when an opposition goalie is doing that, does it get into the head of Niemi or Lehtonen?

“I think it’s a fair question, but we just can’t think that way, that we have to win the game by ourselves,” Lehtonen said. “You want to help in any way you can. You want to make every save if you can and not allow any goals. But you never know what kind of game it’s going to be, so you have to be prepared for anything and then you have to react the right way.”

Both goalies have mixed good games with clunkers. With the first visit of the on Thursday, the memory harkens back to last season when Lehtonen was amazing in saving Game 6 of the second round playoff series against the Blues and then forgettable in losing Game 7.

And while the veteran netminder said he moved past Game 7 in the summer, he said he still is concerned about his 1 3 1 record in 2016 17.

“I think the thing that bothers me the most this year is the one win,” Lehtonen said. “That’s the statistic I worry about the most, and I know I need more than that.”

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