Most teams wouldn’t park their starting netminder after he won two of his first three playoff starts.
The Dallas Stars aren’t most teams, however.
After Kari Lehtonen backstopped Dallas to a 2-1 series lead over Minnesota, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff went to Antti Niemi for Game 4, and Niemi responded with 28 saves in a 3-2 win.
Now, with the Stars on the verge of closing out the Wild, Niemi will be back in goal tonight.
It’s an unconventional methodology, to say the least, but one that’s gotten the job done — which is partly why Ruff said he’s tired of talking about it.
“I’ve been asked this almost 82 games this year,” Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “I’m tired of explaining our two goalie thing, but it’s been working and it’s been a good option for us.”
To be fair, Dallas’ goaltending situation has been unique for a long time.
Ever since GM Jim Nill went out and acquired Niemi at the draft, then signed him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract, the plan was to have both goalies play significant minutes this year, and share starting duties.
“Travel in the West is probably as tough as it can get, and in Dallas, probably worse than a lot of other teams,” he explained, per NHL.com. “Between the travel, the back-to-back situations, how close our division — if it’s not the toughest, it’s one of the toughest — the competition, a win here on the road, a win there in a back-to-back, if a goalie gets injured, we know we now have that covered.”
At some point, everyone assumed Dallas would have to anoint a clear-cut, this-is-our-guy, No. 1 netminder. Most assumed that decision would come in the playoffs.
But the Stars figured, hey, the goalie tandem worked for us all year long, and we did finish atop the Western Conference.
So why not try it in the postseason?
“We’re comfortable using both of them,” Ruff explained. “And both these guys have done a real good job.”