Goaltending Kari Lehtonen proved what he could do last season when he is healthy. The Finnish netminder came away with some more than respectable stats as he had a .919 save percentage with a goals-against average of 2.41 in 65 games played. He backstopped the Stars to 33 wins while he played, good enough for seventh in the league. There is a concern regarding Lehtonen’s play in the playoffs. In his first crack at post-season play since the 2006-07 season, the 32-year old did not show the same consistency he did in the regular season. In their series against the Anaheim Ducks, Lehtonen had a save percentage of .885 and a goals-against average of 3.29. If the Stars hope to fulfill their Stanley Cup promise, Lehtonen will have to improve on the big stage. As insurance, the Stars brought in Anders Lindback to backup the oft-injured Lehtonen. If Lindback ends up laying on a regular basis in some capacity, it could dash the Stars’ hopes for a successful season. Power Play There is room for improvement for the Stars’ power-play. Last season the team finished with a 15.9 percent success rate, good for 23rd in the league. The hope is that with the off-season additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, and another year together for the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, that familiarity will breed success. Spezza should have an effect on the power-play right away. A crisp playmaker with the ability to score on his own, the 30-year old has had proven success gathering points while on the man-advantage. Last season Spezza accumulated nine goals and 13 assists, with an improved cast of characters, it is almost impossible to imagine those numbers not improving. With this group of talented offensive players, the Stars should at least move to the middle of the pack this season. Tyler Seguin Penalty Kill Glenn James/NHL/Getty Images The special teams are an area of concern for the Dallas Stars. Not only did the power-play struggle last season, but so did the penalty kill. The Stars killed 81.4% of the opposition’s power plays in 2013-14. With that lack of success, the team finished in the bottom-third of the league, landing in the 21st spot. The old adage is that the goaltender has to be the team’s best penalty killer and Kari Lehtonen will have to be in order for the Stars to improve in their standing. While the team struggled on the kill, they proved to be a dangerous team to the opposition’s netminder as the Stars scored eight shorthanded goals. Jamie Benn led the team in shorthanded points, but he will be counted on to help prevent teams from scoring on the man-advantage. Three Questions 1.Can Seguin and Benn replicate their success? While he has had an “every other year” career so far, there is no reason to believe that the chemistry Seguin formed with Benn last season will disappear. These two played off of each other incredibly well, they should be able to pick up where they left off last year. 2. Will Spezza fit into a lesser role? Spezza will have to adjust to an entirely new role after the trade from Ottawa where he was the captain of a team and offensive focal point for years. He will assume less ice time, but it could be good for the All-Star’s health in the long run. He was brought in to produce, and that’s just what he will do. 3. Can Lehtonen advance the team through to the playoffs and beyond? Lehtonen will have the entire regular season to work out the kinks that got the best of him in the playoffs last season. The Stars believe he is an elite goaltender in the NHL. Lehtonen will have to prove them right if the Stars are to make a deep run in the playoffs. Prediction In any other division, a team with this much depth at forward would be almost a lock at a top-two spot in the division. In the Central, they will fight it out for a 3/4 seed. If the team picks up another solid defenseman, then a higher finish could be in the cards.
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