The decision by coach Lindy Ruff to go back to Lehtonen is no surprise after Antti Niemi started Game 3 and didn’t even last half of it. This is the way the Stars have rolled all season — back and forth between their two veteran netminders.
Yesterday, Ruff reiterated his frustration at having to constantly explain the two-goalie system.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent with what we have done all year,” Ruff told reporters. “I know that’s hard for you guys to buy into, because this two-goalie thing is new to you guys and you’d rather just ask me about one goalie, but we’ve had two goalies that have played really well that have got us to where we are.”
Ruff’s frustration is understandable, but then, so are the constant questions from reporters. Because if the Stars don’t get some better goaltending soon, they’ll be out of the playoffs and GM Jim Nill will be left to justify the $10.4 million in cap space he’s got tied up in Lehtonen and Niemi through 2017-18.
No other team has that much cap space allocated to a pair of goalies.
Now, was it all Niemi’s fault that the Stars lost Game 3? Of course it wasn’t. The Blues were the better team.
But the fact remains, Lehtonen and Niemi have combined to give Dallas an .892 save percentage in the playoffs, and that’s not even close to good enough.
Nill said going into the season that the Stars had “two No. 1 goalies.”
Right now, they don’t even have one.
If they did, he’d be playing all the time, and the coach wouldn’t have to explain a thing.