Sunday, September 20, 2009

Focus on a Thrasher: Kari Lehtonen

Kari Lehtonen is a Finn-onemal goalie. Not many will argue with that. Kari has been one of the hardest working men in hockey the last few seasons. It's nothing for him to see 40 shots a game. Where the issue usually comes up is around November when Kari goes down with a seasonal groin injury. And of course, at times he does have a bad a night or two. When Kari is "on" the Thrashers excel. The one season we had him for almost every game, we made the play off.


Controversy has come early this season for our big Finn. Kari recently had back surgery and will probably not be ready by opening night. Some fans are furious, some horrified others confused. Get well Karpa, we need you!





Kari was born on November 16, 1983 in Helsinki, Finland.





Kari began his professional career with Jokerit of the SM-Liiga in Helsinki.





In Kari's first few seasons (1999-00 & 2000-01) he only played a handful of games with Jokerit.





Kari had an outstanding 2001-02 season. He began the season as the back up goalie for Jokerit, but captured the starting position and won the Urpo Ylonen trophy which is given to the best goalie in the league. He also won the Jari Kurri trophy which is awarded to the player voted the best player in the playoffs by the fans .





In the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Kari was drafted in the first round, #2 overall by the Atlanta Thrashers. This made Kari the highest-drafted European netminder in league history. Kari played two more seasons for Jokerit before reporting the Thrashers.





The 2002-03 season was Kari's final season with Jokerit. He played 45 games and finished the season with a .926 SV% and a GAA of 1.98





Kari reported to the Thrashers for the 2003-04 season and was assigned to the Chicago Wolves. Though Kari spent most of that season in Chicago, he did get the call up. On Mary 19, 2004 Kari made his NHL debut against the Florida Panthers in a 3-2 win. This win set off a four game winning streak with Kari posting 1 shutout, a 1.25 GAA and a .953 SV% as a rookie. For his first win he made 19 saves and he turned away 30 shots to get his first shutout.





The lockout didn't phase Kari much as he spent all of the 2004-05 with the Chicago Wolves. Kari played in 57 games and led that Wolves to the Calder Cup finals. In 16 games in the post season, Kari played in 16 games and had a 1.71 GAA and a .939 SV%.





2005-06 was set to be Karpa's year! He was the starting goalie and was gonna take the season by storm. OOOPS! In a sign of things yet to come, Kari suffered a serious groin injury when a Florida Panther collided with him in the first period of the SEASON OPENER. DAMN! Kari missed 35 games and returned in December. On April 6, Kari was injured again when a Tampa player collided with him. Lehtonen tried to get up, but sprained his ankle in the process.





The 2006-07 season was a career best. Kari played in 68 games. Early in the season Kari broke the team shutout record previously held by Michael Garret and set a personal career high 5 shutouts. On February 8, 2007 Kari became the the Thrashers franchise leader for wins by a goaltender with 49, passing my beloved Pasi Nurminen. On April 12, Kari was the starting goaltender for the Thrashers in their first NHL playoff appearance.





Kari got a rough start to the 2007-08 season with yet another early in the season groin injury which caused him to miss 16 games and return in December. He even did 2 reconditioning games back in Chicago. Kari finished the season with a respectable .916 SV% and 2.9 GAA even though the Thrashers did not make the play offs.





For the 2008-09 season, Kari went down early with "back stiffness" and returned in (you guessed it) December. As a whole the Thrashers didn't do well (although we had a hell of a good stretch at the end). Kari had a few bright spots though. He:

  • made a career-best 49 saves on a career-high 50 shots in the Thrashers 5-1 win on March 16 against division rivals, Washington.
  • Stopped all 35 shots faced for his 3rd shutout of the season, his 2nd in 3 games.
  • Won 5 straight starts for the Thrashers.
Some fun stuff about Kari:
  • It took him a while to get the hang of 4 way stops.
  • He has a PHAT ASS house in Buckhead that you can surf up on you tube.
  • He got the nickname "Hamburgler" when he came to Chicago because he was enamoured with McDonald Hamburgers. He even had the Hamburgler on his mask. Some fnas use this as a derogatory nickname now.
  • He likes the rapper Little Jon and has him on the back of his mask.
  • He has a mask that has Optimus Prime on it but is said to despise it and refuses to wear it for games, only practices.
  • In the past he had masks with Yuna and Rikku from the video game Final Fantasy X-2 as well as Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu's characters from Kill Bill.
  • He is extremely superstitious about his new masks. He doesn't like for pictures of his masks to get out before he wears them for a game. I found this out the hard way.
  • His nickname "Karpa" is apparently a nickname he has had since childhood. "Karpa" is Finnish for a little weasel.
Get well and stay well Karpa! We need you.

2 comments:

Anonymous September 22, 2009 at 1:06 PM  

His nickname is Kärppä.

SMO Cat September 25, 2009 at 10:58 AM  

How did I miss this?! This is the day I've been waiting for! KARI!! Man, I miss him.

I found a link back here from Karila, a Kari fan site - didn't know if you knew you were mentioned on there:
http://sinisiipi32.wordpress.com/

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