08 August 2008

Two things of note! Kari, and pig chasing

First up: Kari! No idea who or what thrashers.today.com is, but this was an interesting article:

For Lehtonen, this season could be make or break

By Bud L. Ellis

ATLANTA – As long as he dons the Thrashers’ blue, Kari Lehtonen will hear boos.

Fair or not, that comes with the territory when you’re the second player selected in a draft, as the Finnish goaltender was in 2002. It gets ratcheted higher when you sport a career goals against average in the playoffs of 5.59, keep landing on injured reserve and follow a spectacular performance with an effort so bad, you’re sitting on the bench midway through the second period.

Certainly, frustrated Thrashers fans have turned their venom toward the netminder. Battling inconsistency all season – and not helped by a porous defense that more often than not failed to clear the front of the net – Lehtonen finished 17-22 with a 2.90 GAA and a save percentage of .916.

Sure, that save percentage ranked 15th in the NHL last season (setting a franchise record in the process) and the lefty posted four shutouts, but don’t tell the critics. They’ll instead point to that GAA that ranked 35th among NHL netminders. They’ll also point to Lehtonen’s groin problems; indeed, he missed 16 games in October and November with a groin strain.

But the Atlanta D – or lack thereof – is part of the reason why Lehtonen earned a new name from some fans: “Let-Em-In.” He faced an average of 32.5 shots per game last season, including 40-plus on 10 separate occasions. Hard to stop the puck when two forwards and a center set up shop right in front of you, and Atlanta gave up more shots than any team in the NHL last season.

Still, the time has come for Lehtonen to raise his game. He signed a one-year contract last month and hopes to work out a long-term deal. But with veteran Johan Hedberg signed to a two-year deal, and super prospect Ondrej Pavelic waiting in the wings, this season could be make-or-break for Lehtonen.

If Lehtonen is going to deliver upon the promise that comes with being a top draft pick and franchise cornerstone, this season has to be it. The Thrashers, one season after winning the Southeast Division title, plunged to the bottom depths of the Eastern Conference last season. The disaster that was last season was Lehtonen’s fault, to a degree, but then again, you could say that about every Thrashers’ player not named Ilya Kovalchuk or Tobias Enstrom.

He always will draw the slings and arrows from the critics sitting in Philips Arena. An improved defensive corps will help, but if the Thrashers are going to turn this thing around in 2008-09, Lehtonen has to turn some of those boos to cheers. Otherwise, he could be wearing a different jersey this time next year.

Secondly! Who is going to this?! I WANT PICTURES!!! I am saddened by the lack of actual pig racing. Or perhaps greased pig catching. Pig chase could be fun though. Also, cake walk!!


nebcanuck said...

I don't see how there could be any question that Kari's on the ball, really. Except Waddell seems to be set on making him a good player, since he has his neck on the line with having selected him high. But Atlanta is going nowhere, and the goaltending has been static for years -- there has to be talk of a correlation.

nebcanuck said...

Actually, I gotta say that I didn't realize quite how young Leht is. I don't know how I missed it, but 24 is really young to be a starting goalie.

If he stumbles and never recovers, the Thrashers organization has to be blamed, if only for putting too much on his shoulders too early.