Kari Lehtonen, master of the irrelevant

When it comes to largely anonymous Finnish goaltenders, Kari Lehtonen holds a high place in my heart. And like most of my hockey preferences, the reasoning is pretty stupid: he had a small part in my fantasy hockey team winning a championship.

Let me take you waaaay back to the 2003-04 season. Team Pants was an unstoppable juggernaut locomotive of a team, but their idiot GM (me) dropped Rick Dipietro under the assumption Ricky D would be injured for the rest of that season. Which turned out to be something like a 1-2 week injury. Yikes.

Reeling from the possibility of losing because of my own stupidity, I noticed that Lehtonen, the object of much praise from fantasy guru Chris Nichols, had just been called up by the Thrashers. Since I’m a fantasy hockey Lemming, I followed Nichols’ advice and snatched Lehtonen off the waiver wire.

Lehtonen was one of the main reasons my team was able to win a fake, meaningless title that nonetheless felt great, going 4-0 with an obscene 1.25 GAA, an absurd 95.3 save percentage and a shutout.


KL will never be forgotten after that effort, but playing on a shitty Southeast division team means that Lehtonen is like an old friend whose body odor and tasteless humor keep him from remaining in the rotation. He’s always been on the radar, but just never quite worth the risk.

Fast forward to this season and once again, the Atlanta Thrashers are just about eliminated from the playoffs and Lehtonen is once again among the hottest goalies in the NHL. He is on a five game winning streak with two shutouts and allowed only one goal on 49 shots against the Washington Capitals tonight. Looking for an under-the-radar stud? Lehtonen might be your man.

It’s a small sample, but here’s some rather stunning stats for Atlanta’s franchise goalie in the last month and a half of each season versus his normal production:

Career record in March and April: 32-16; Career record in other months: 61-65

March and April (08 – 09): 5-1; Other months: 13-19

March and April (07 – 08): 4-4; Other months: 13-18

March and April (06 – 07): 8-5; Other months: 26-19

March and April (05 – 06): 11-6; Other months: 9-9

March and April (03 – 04): 4-0; Other months: n/a

Again, it is a small sample. But a trend is forming in Hotlanta. Should the Thrashers invest in a high-end hypnotist to convince Kari that every month is March or April?

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