Kari Lehtonen looked great at times last season, but 2011-12 might be the year that he truly shows why he was drafted second overall in 2002. The Finnish goalie made the difference for the Dallas Stars once again Friday night, as they beat an almost-as-hot Anaheim Ducks team 3-1.
Lehtonen is 6-0 so far this season, but it’s the workload he’s carrying that really makes his results impressive. Aside from the Columbus Blue Jacket’s dismal efforts, Lehtonen has faced at least 36 shots in every start. He’s been up to the task to a staggering degree, though, allowing just nine goals.
Naturally, the burning question is whether he can keep it up. He has the pedigree to do so, but two worrisome factors cannot be ignored.
Stars fans might grumble at this one, but there was a time when Lehtonen was the Southeast Rick DiPietro: a highly drafted and occasionally promising goalie whose career was riddled with injuries. He was limited to 12 games in 2009-10 and less than 50 in 08-09 and 07-08. Hopefully Lehtonen is over those woes, but the injury risks are legitimate if he continues to face 35+ shots per night and flirts with 70 starts.
Sheldon Souray has been an amazing story so far. He went from a guy whose contract left him buried in the AHL to a solid offensive contributor out of the gate (five points in seven games).
Souray doesn’t heal many own-zone wounds, though. Lehtonen’s dazzling .957 save percentage is bound to drop, so Dallas’ D needs to tighten up. They might not have the personnel to do that, though.
There are a number of factors working against Lehtonen and the Stars, but his talent shouldn’t be denied. We’ll see if that’s enough to clear some serious hurdles this season.
Former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore may have been coached by Mike Babcock, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of Mike Babcock.
Commodore played in just 17 games for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2011-12 season and that was enough for him to muster up some pretty harsh feelings toward his old coach.
As Babcock’s new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were being embarrassed in Detroit on Friday, Commodore took to Twitter to show fans just how much he was enjoying his former coach’s struggles.
Things got especially interesting after Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin scored just 20 seconds into the second period to give Detroit a 3-0 lead.
“3-0 nothin Babs you posing arrogant piece of (bleep),” said Commodore via his Twitter page. “Welcome back to the rink where everyone that met you hates you.”
Commodore wasn’t done there:
And there was much, much more.
To get a look at all of Commodore’s Babcock-bashing tweets, click here.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”