Dallas Stars: Niemi Beating Out Lehtonen So Far


The Dallas Stars have only played through a few preseason games but Antti Niemi has looked like the better netminder.

Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars front office made a bold move this summer when they traded for Antti Niemi during the NHL Draft. Jim Nill emphasized the fact that, in the current state of the NHL, teams cannot rely on only one goalie. The Stars are confident that they can play through the season by not having a “starter” but by just letting two No. 1 goalies share the workload. That way, they won’t be forced to overwork their netminder by playing him in consecutive games throughout the season.

Though the Stars have this creative format set up for the regular season, they still have to determine who starts on opening night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That goalie, even though the Stars won’t have a defined starter, will likely be looked at by most as the Stars go-to goalie.

Through a couple of weeks, the Stars have played a handful of preseason games. Kari Lehtonen got the start in two of them while Niemi and Jack Campbell got the starts in the others. You can make the case that not all of the Stars forwards have been playing, which is the reason why they haven’t put up big offensive numbers, but that has nothing to do with how poorly Lehtonen has played in both of his games.

His first game was against the Blues and he gave up six goals on the way to a 6-0 loss for the Stars. In his next game, he held the Panthers for a stretch, but eventually crumbled, giving Florida the 4-2 win. Niemi’s only start this preseason was against the Lightning in a game that the Stars won 6-3.

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It’s the preseason, which is a time to fine-tune your skills and get ready for the regular season, but so far, Lehtonen has looked very poor. He isn’t performing like his usual self and it’s obvious to see. Niemi didn’t have a flawless game either, but it was considerably better than Lehtonen’s. If the same trend continues, I would expect to see Niemi on the ice to start the game against the Penguins.

Each goalie will get a few more chances to show his skills off before the regular season starts but it certainly looks like Niemi could beat Lehtonen out. Depending on exactly who starts, the Stars will most likely play one goalie on the first night of a back-to-back and the other on the second. That is something that they have not had experience with since Dallas has never had a solid backup.

The Stars are set to have a great season with a few new players on board but none of that will matter if the goaltending is average. Late last season, the Stars had a little bit of momentum but didn’t truly get going until they found the hot goalie in Jhonas Enroth.

There is still work to be done and it remains a question as to if Jim Nill’s strategy will work, but if it does, the Stars could end up having one of the best goaltending situations in the NHL.

Next: Early Injuries Won't Affect Stars Success This Season

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