Dallas is an offensive force, but its goalie play is worrisome

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GustavssonJonas Gustavsson, Boston Bruins
Gustavsson continues to be a solid backup option in Boston, improving to 11-5-1 on the season after stopping all 42 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

ZetterbergHenrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
A recent slump for the Red Wings has coincided with a cold spell for their captain. Zetterberg has not registered a point since Feb. 18 and is a minus-6 in the eight games since then.

Will suspect goaltending ruin the Dallas Stars' season?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Will goaltending be the Stars' undoing come playoff time? That's the uneasy feeling you get when examining the team here in the stretch run. They are in first place in the mighty Central Division, two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks, but after the 4-3 OT loss in Montreal on Tuesday, I again question whether the duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen will be good enough to get the Stars a few rounds deep come playoff time. Lehtonen took the loss Tuesday, and his current .906 save percentage is good for just 36th in the league among qualified starters. Niemi's save percentage sits at .903, good for for 40th. Now, Niemi has won a Stanley Cup (with Chicago in 2010) and we know he can catch lightning in a bottle, so there's that. But I really worry for the Stars come crunch time given the kind of goaltending they're getting right now. Thoughts?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: It's interesting that you ask that question, Pierre, because I'm heading to Dallas to watch the Stars in two key Central Division matchups this weekend. The Stars host Chicago on Friday and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, then follow that by hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. We should be able to answer all your questions by the middle of next week. I have been impressed with the Stars' ability to put aside an ugly slide early in this calendar year and regain the swagger that made them the darlings of the first quarter of the NHL season. They're in a dogfight with Chicago and St. Louis for first place in the division, and while Dallas owns a nice 21-10-1 record at home, the Blackhawks' intimidating 24-8-2 mark at the United Center underscores the Stars' need to at least hold down the second spot in the division to maintain home-ice advantage in the first round. This Stars team is more playoff-ready, more mentally prepared for the challenges ahead, than Dallas was the past couple of years, but there's little doubt that goaltending is the reason many believe the Stars may not be ready for the long ride this spring. The next few days will tell us much about whether that view is accurate.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: It's actually pretty amazing that the Stars are where they are, considering their goaltending. Dallas currently has a .917 even-strength save percentage, good for No. 27 in the league. They are keeping company at the bottom of those standings with teams like Edmonton, Carolina, Calgary, Montreal, Columbus and Toronto. None of those are playoff teams, let alone teams ready to challenge the reigning champs at the top of the standings. It's a little puzzling that both Niemi and Lehtonen are both below their career averages in save percentage. It raises the question of how much the Stars' offensive style of play is affecting their goaltending, but either way, this has to be a huge concern heading into the playoffs. The Stars are otherwise built to make a long run, but things are so tight that one or two bad games from the Dallas goaltenders early in the postseason will mean their run is over before it really even begins.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Oh, Stars fans are not going to be happy that anyone is suggesting there's an issue with their team. I've said all along the Stars would have problems once puck dropped for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it starts in the defensive end. No doubt the Stars are an offensive juggernaut, but that will not win you a Cup. I recently had a conversation with a Western Conference scout who attended the last couple of Stars games, and he said that Tyler Seguin has been more or less a passenger and not very effective. Not that I'm singling him out, but it's an indication of this team's deficiencies. It all comes down to goaltending in the postseason, and if the Stars are struggling there, it doesn't bode well for their chances of advancing deep into the spring.

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