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Stars coach Ruff says Niemi ‘didn’t have his best game,’ but no starter named for Game 6

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff wouldn’t commit to a starting netminder for Game 6 of the first-round series against the Minnesota Wild. In Game 5, goaltender Antti Niemi allowed five goals on 24 shots as the Stars fell in overtime.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It’s not exactly a goaltending controversy, but Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff isn’t quite sure which goaltender he’s going with in Game 6 against the Minnesota Wild — or if he is, he certainly isn’t telling anyone.

The Stars had a chance to advance to the second round Friday night against the Minnesota Wild, but came up short in overtime, losing 5-4 in a game Dallas likely should have had in the bag. Antti Niemi allowed five goals on 24 shots, this coming after he had started and won Game 4 after being the backup in the first three games of the series. Ruff didn’t make excuses in his assessment of Niemi’s performance post-game.

"He had one day in between starts and played well in Minnesota,” Ruff said, via The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika. “The time between starts wasn't a factor. Maybe he didn't have his best game tonight, but he started on a lot of rest going into the game in Minneapolis.”

But with Game 6 and another chance at moving on coming Sunday, Ruff wouldn’t commit to a starter.

"We'll just evaluate and move on,” Ruff said, via Heika. “We’ll just keep doing what we've done all year. We're up 3-2, and (Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have) both won us games in the playoffs."

Dallas entered the playoffs with a .917 5-on-5 save percentage, which ranked 27th in the league. The next-worst playoff team was the Nashville Predators, but even they cracked the .920 mark with a .922 5-on-5 SP. Goaltending was an obvious area of concern for the Stars in the off-season, too, and that’s why Niemi was brought in and inked to a three-year, $13.5-million deal. He hasn’t fixed the problem, though. The Stars have sunk the most money into goaltending of any team in the league with Niemi and Lehtonen having a combined cap hit of more than $10 million.

That the Stars are going through this right now — a back and forth between which netminder to start — shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. If anything was going to slow down the Dallas Stars in the post-season, it was bound to be goaltending. Niemi performance in Game 5 wasn’t enough to win Dallas the series, and neither he nor Lehtonen has shown enough during the regular season to earn their keep as the full-time starter.

It’s now up to Ruff to choose which is his best option moving forward, though, and he’ll have to hope one or the other steps up to help the Stars advance.


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