Lehtonen Driving Stars Forward

Did you know that Dallas Stars Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen was the second overall pick in 2002 behind Rick Nash? Up until this year Lehtonen's career stats hovered around the .500 mark. With him as the starter, he made the playoffs once with the Atlanta Thrashers, and that run did not last long at all.

Kari Lehtonen makes the blocker save — AP Photo

Enter this year.

The 27-year-old native of Helsinki completely changed his offseason workout routine. He shed a few pounds, gained more muscle mass, and in the process, strengthened muscles that gave him injury fits in the past. Throughout his stint in Atlanta, he would miss several games due to a reoccuring injury to his back. This workout routine supposedly strengthened not only his body, but his skills, too.

With no pressure on the team, and admittedly not many fans filling the stands, Lehtonen has felt no pressure in the net, and he has responded as such. Lehtonen has all four of the Stars' wins, holds the best save percentage in the NHL with .955, and the third best goals-against average of 1.48.

Stars' new head coach Glen Gulutzan praised his netminder, saying that he singlehandedly won the team a few games. He's not far off. The team is experiencing growing pains and they are searching for an identity.

Night after night, Kari Lehtonen continues to give the growing team a chance to win in a season where they were picked to be on the fringe. It's pretty well assumed that backup Andrew Raycroft won't be seeing too much time in the near future.

Any hockey fan can be quick to point out that while the Stars are leading their division, they have only played five games. Last season the Stars led the Western Conference halfway through the season only to see their ranking in the second half fall like a shooting star all the way down to ninth.

Even if that is the case, Lehtonen is at his best right now. He is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the National Hockey League.


George Prax's picture

He's on several of my fantasy teams as a late-round pick Smile. Underrated is all that can be said.