Kari Lehtonen

Could Kari Lehtonen drag the Stars to the playoffs?

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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.

Video: Flyers, Bolts confirm 3-on-3 OT is pretty much the greatest thing ever

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Well, the NHL’s two new initiatives for ’15-16 seem to be going swimmingly.

Not long after Ottawa successfully made the second-ever coach’s challenge, fans got their first look at 3-on-3 overtime.

And what a look it was.

In the span of 137 seconds, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers combined for eight shots on goal, a few breakaways, some tremendous saves — including one on a penalty shot — and, finally, Jason Garrison‘s game-winning goal on a breakaway from center, giving the Bolts a 3-2 win.

It was, in a word, fun.

Lots of fun.

A quick sampling of reviews:

Of course, not everybody was a fan:

Now, to temper things a bit — this was the first time we’ve seen 3-on-3 with something on the line, so there was a novelty factor at play. There’s also no guaranteeing future OT sessions will be as exciting as this.

But none of that takes away from the fact 3-on-3 made for appointment viewing, and immense entertainment value. The prospect of future games like this? That’s pretty exciting.

In Jets return, Burmistrov delivers headshot to Bergeron (Updated)


Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.

Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:

Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).

The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.

Update: Bergeron stayed in the game, but B’s head coach Claude Julien was none too pleased with the hit. Following the game, he called for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to look at it…