It’s a timely question for the Stars, who find themselves once again sinking in the save percentage rankings. Dallas last season was 29th in the 30 team NHL at .895 and allocated significant resources to repairing that leak. They hired goalie coach Jeff Reese and acquired veteran Antti Niemi jersey cheap at a cost of $4.5 million for the next three years. Combined with Kari Lehtonen jersey cheap’s $5.9 million contract, the Stars are spending more on goaltending than any other team in the league.
But, as they prepare for the final 11 games of the season, the save percentage again ranks 29th (.900), and that is seen as a concern.
“The style of play we play is harder on our goaltenders, so I’m going to take the hit for that,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff of a coaching style that creates high quality scoring chances for and against. “But there is a shared responsibility there.”
In other words, it can be better. Improvement is being sought, and all involved said it’s a team effort.
“We are part of the team and we want to win as a team, so we have to figure out a way to make that number better,” said Lehtonen, who is 11 points below his career save percentage of .914 but is 19 9 2 on the season. “Three years ago, my save percentage was fine and we missed the playoffs. This year, my save percentage isn’t fine, and we’re in first place. I would much rather it be the way it is now. In a perfect world, we would like to have it both ways, and we’re working toward that.”
Lehtonen has been a part of the Stars’ transition toward high event hockey that coincided with the hiring of general manager Jim Nill and Ruff Wholesale Jerseys China
in 2013. He has had time to adjust to the high scoring chances. Niemi last season played in a San Jose system that limited scoring chances, so his adjustment has been more jarring.
“It’s hard to deal with, because it doesn’t make sense,” Niemi said of a .901 save percentage and a 22 12 7 record. “But I think if you just focus on making the next save, then it all seems to work out for you. If you don’t worry about where the puck comes from or how it got there, I think you are better at your job.”
Former Stars goalie Marty Turco won two Roger Crozier Saving Grace Awards in 2001 at .925 and in 2003 at .932 but he said he tried to not let those numbers affect him.
“I always said that they paid me to win games, so that was my most important stat,” said Turco, who now works with the team in corporate development. “If you watch this team, they get the most and best scoring chances and they probably give up the most and best scoring chances, and so the goalies have to learn to win in that environment. They seem to be doing a pretty good job of that.”
That said, teams that are near the bottom of the league don’t typically win in the playoffs. So the Stars are either going to turn the NHL on its ear with a new offensive style of hockey in the postseason or they are going to have to bring the save percentage up a bit.
“Save percentage is a tough one, because it’s the quality of save that has to be made,” Ruff said. “I think our overall defending and keeping the shots down has improved. We’ve eliminated a large percentage of the big mistakes, which has helped us get to where we are at. If we want to take the next step, we have to be tighter.”