Richard Bachman is making his case to remain the starter while the Dallas Stars continue to deal with the injury to starting netminder Kari Lehtonen–and to serve as Lehtonen’s backup once he returns.
The 24-year-old Salt Lake City, Utah native has posted back-to-back wins and has only given up a single goal in those games. These two wins come at a crucial time, as the Stars have been in a slide and unable to gain traction.
Bachman, drafted 120th overall in the fourth round by the Stars in 2006, made 60 saves on 61 shots in his first two starts in the NHL. Filling in for Andrew Raycroft, who allowed five goals during the December, 8th game in San Jose, Bachman stopped all 11 shots he faced in that game. Although Raycroft had played well in his first three starts after Lehtonen was injured on November, 25th, Raycroft
allowed five goals in back-to-back games, prompting Head Coach Glen Gulutzan to give Bachman a shot. Raycroft–2-7 record, 3.53 GAA, and .897 SA%–has been unreliable and streaky throughout much of this season. In his first two starts, Bachman has already equalled Raycroft’s win total on the year.
Bachman followed an impressive 2-1 victory in Los Angeles with a rock-solid 1-0 shutout at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, in which he outplayed one of the world’s elite netminders in Henrik Lundqvist and simultaneously spoiled Brad Richards debut against his former team. Of course, two games and a few statistics don’t show how an athlete will perform over the course of an entire season (or career, for that matter). Bachman still needs to develop as an NHL netminder (his positional play, for one, needs improvement), but nevertheless, Bachman’s performance should not be underestimated. Coach Gulutzan sees something in this young netminder and has given Bachman the nod for the team’s next game against the New York Islanders on Long Island. If Bachman can continue to serve as a reliable goaltender, General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk might be shipping Andrew Raycroft down to the AHL Texas Stars (or perhaps to another franchise). Undoubtedly, the Stars management would rather have Bachman playing as a starter for the AHL Texas Stars, but if Raycroft continues to struggle, the team may be compelled to use Bachman as the No. 2 goaltender.
Over the past 2 seasons, the Stars goaltending tandem has been Lehtonen and Raycroft, and too often the team has been forced to rely upon Lehtonen to carry the team. Last season, the Stars played Lehtonen in 69 games, while Raycroft only saw action in 19. Lehtonen has performed consistently throughout his tenure in Dallas, but if the team is forced to play Lehtonen in 70 games a season, injuries may become a more serious problem for the promising Finish goaltender. Supposing that Bachman continues to be a reliable netminder for the Stars, it would reduce the strain placed on Lehtonen.
The early success of Richard Bachman also emphasizes the relative strength of the Stars farm system and the depth of their prospects. Bachman–with Eriksson, Benn, Ott, and Lehtonen–is just another example of a young prospect who is burgeoning into a talented NHL player under the Stars system.
Bachman has only played in four NHL games in his career, so it is too early to make such confident and bold statements about his performance, but in order to be successful in the NHL, a team must have two solid goaltenders. The Dallas Stars have lacked that over the past two seasons, and Bachman could offer the team a dependable goaltender duo.