The Minnesota Wild have already accomplished two very difficult tasks this season: getting to the postseason, and securing home ice. Now they have another hard choice to make that a lot of teams wish to have — which goalie should they start? They have two very capable goaltenders on their team in veteran Cam Talbot, and new-to-the-Wild, but seasoned NHL veteran Marc-André Fleury.
Many people probably have the choice made up in their minds who they think head coach Dean Evason should go with, but both goalies deserve a fair look. Each goalie finished up the regular season with strong records, and Talbot’s was a bit stronger due to the team in front of him. Fleury still had a winning record, but also a few more losses because he was on a struggling Chicago Blackhawks team.
Wild’s Playoff Veteran
Fleury came to the Wild a little over a month ago, and made an impression immediately. The majority of fans would probably pick him to be the starting goalie in the playoffs for a number of reasons. The first is he’s known for his playoff pedigree, and with the exception of his first two seasons, he’s been in the playoffs every season for the last 15 years. In that time he’s played in 162 games with a record of 90-70, and don’t forget he’s won three Stanley Cups in that time frame. He also nearly took the Vegas Golden Knights to one in their first season of existence.
His postseason numbers may seem not all that impressive at .912 SV% and 2.53 goals-against average (GAA), but he’s also had 16 shutouts in that time. It’s not all about numbers either, as his experience is invaluable. He can help guide not only Talbot, but everyone on the team, and having someone who’s been through it before can help maintain a calm controlled atmosphere.
The reason he would be a good choice to start Game 1 would be his experience and composure. He’s been through this many times before and came out successful. He knows how to deal with the start of series jitters and step up his play with the added pressure.
Wild’s Starting Goaltender
As the goaltender who’s been with the Wild longer and was their starter throughout the year, Talbot has earned the right to be in the conversation for starting Game 1. A few months ago, if someone had asked who should start in the playoffs, the answer would likely not have been Talbot, however, since that rough losing streak he’s really picked up his game.
In the last few weeks alone he’s shown he can go against the best of them, and at times save his team the win. He’s proven his capabilities over and over, and that included being in net for their strong win over the Calgary Flames where he stopped 31 out of 33 shots for a .939 save percentage (SV%) and an even more impressive 1.98 goals-against average (GAA).
Why does he deserve to get the starting spot? He’s been on the most recent win streak and helped take down some very tough teams in the Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and the Edmonton Oilers, to name a few. He’s carried this team through its hard times, and came back from an injury that caused him to miss nearly a month’s time. He’s played in 49 games this season, and has a record of 31-12-4, he’s lost only 16 times. He has a .911 SV% and a 2.76 GAA, of course, these stats could and need to be better but for the number of wins he racked up, they’re not terrible.
If the choice was based on which goalie had been playing better lately, the choice would be Talbot. He’s been reliable and when his game is on, he’s one of the best goaltenders out there.
Wild’s Final Choice
Either choice would be a logical one, but obviously, only one goalie can take the starting spot. Most likely the Wild will go with Fleury, with his experience and success rate it would be hard not to choose him, that is why they traded for him in the first place. They wanted the best chance at going all the way, and they went for it by getting a goaltender of his caliber and they don’t want him sitting on the bench.
However, an argument could be made that the Blues may be expecting this, and to throw them off the Wild could choose to start Talbot as sort of a secret weapon. In terms of the regular season results, both goalies have lost to the Blues so that doesn’t make much of a difference and they’re both close in age, in their later 30’s so it’s not a young versus old situation either.
Monday night it’ll most likely be Fleury in net to go after that important first win of the series. He’ll hopefully have as close to a full roster as possible in front of him, and home-ice advantage will be huge. The team thrives off of hearing that home crowd, and hopefully, it’ll carry them to that win.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.