Wild’s Goaltending Helps Secure Road Trip Wins

While the hustle and bustle of a busy 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was going on, the Minnesota Wild were in the middle of a two-game West Coast road trip that took them to Vancouver and Calgary. This was a big trip for the Wild to ensure they stayed in a playoff spot and they were able to do just that. They took down the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 and then did the same to the Calgary Flames 3-0.

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The Wild were able to get past these two teams thanks to a number of things, from new additions to the lineup to their stellar goaltenders. Of course, they hit some roadblocks but found ways to power through and get the wins by stepping up defensively.

Wild’s Impressive Goaltending Continues

The Wild’s recent stretch of great play is partially because of strong goaltending from both Marc-André Fleury and Filip Gustavsson. In the last few weeks, the goaltending situation has flipped. Instead of Fleury being the main starter, Gustavsson got a jumpstart to his game and has been playing lights out. While they’ve been rotating again lately, Gustavsson has been put in the net for the higher-competition games, such as against the Calgary Flames.

Fleury took the game against the Canucks and kept his team in it when things got very tight. He didn’t see a lot of action with just 22 shots on goal, with the single goal against him coming from Brock Boeser on the power play. That goal broke the Wild’s 11-game streak of perfect penalty kills, but Fleury didn’t let it bother him. He buckled down and played solid for the rest of the game and helped his team notch another win.

Filip Gustavsson Minnesota Wild
Filip Gustavsson, Minnesota Wild (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Following that win, the Wild headed to Calgary and it was Gustavsson’s turn in the net. The Flames are a team that could still clinch a playoff spot if they put together a winning streak and the teams ahead of them start to lose, so there was some pressure riding on Gustavsson’s shoulders. He didn’t crumble under the pressure. Instead, he rose to the occasion and played out of his mind.

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Gustavsson faced 33 shots and stopped all 33 for his second shutout of the season with the first coming against the Canucks back in December. The Wild owe a big chunk of their success to their goaltenders and, hopefully, they can continue to rely on them as the season moves along.

Wild’s New Additions

The Wild were busy when the Trade Deadline came along and they had two of their new additions join them for this road trip. The first to make his appearance or re-appearance was former Wild player Marcus Johansson. He first spent some time with the Wild back in the COVID-shortened season of 2020-21 before being traded away. He had brief stints with the Seattle Kraken and Washington Capitals before being traded back to the Wild.

Johansson joined his new teammates for the first time this season when they took on the Canucks and he made an impression right away. He was able to showcase his speed and puck-handling skills while on a line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy. He didn’t record any points that night, but in their next game against the Flames, he helped set up the first goal of the game and thus helped secure the win.

Marcus Johansson Minnesota Wild
Marcus Johansson, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Johansson wasn’t the only newbie to make an impression. On the defensive side of things, John Klingberg joined the Wild against the Flames after being traded the day before. He wasn’t able to tally any points, but he did run the first power play unit in place of Calen Addison and it went well for having less than a day to get acclimated. The Wild’s new additions seem to be fitting in well and the team will need that to keep their success going.

Wild’s Extra Effort

With all the changes to the lineup, one thing that stayed the same was the amount of effort the team put in to get the win. With injured players Jonas Brodin and Brandon Duhaime out of the lineup, that made room for Johansson and Sam Steel to join the roster. It had been quite a while since Steel had played, but he really stepped up.

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Steel’s hustle and physical play helped contribute to the second goal of the game and showed he wants to stay in the lineup. He wasn’t the only one with a renewed sense of play. Marcus Foligno, who’d been hurt the last couple of games, also played with a new sense of urgency and tallied the second goal of the game that gave his team the momentum it needed to continue forward.

Without these extra efforts, the Wild would not be pulling out these close wins. They did beat the Flames 3-0, but the majority of the game was within a goal and didn’t open up until the latter half of the game. If the Wild’s roster can keep having different players step up with extra effort, they will be able to continue to win games.

Wild’s Next Opponent

The Wild won’t have much time to forget their win over the Flames as they’ll face them once again but this time at home on Tuesday, Mar. 7. They’ll have to be on the lookout for the same scorers in Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Nazem Kadri, and Mikael Backlund. However, they’ll also still have to find a way past Jacob Markström or Dan Vladar in goal. The Flames will be on their second game of a back-to-back, so it’s hard to say which goaltender they’ll use.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Tyler Toffoli, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Wild got a big four points out of these two games. Those four points will help them in the playoff race and hopefully, with their goaltending, new additions, and extra effort, they’ll continue to snatch points and head in the right direction.