There are some things that work perfectly in theory, within the sport of hockey, and other little things that crumble under the pressure once you put on the context of emotions, momentum, and performance.
I’m not going to start spouting off about The Mental Game like I’m a motivational Instagram account run by a multi-millionaire, but there might just be something to it when it comes to the Minnesota Wild’s goaltending situation and the decision to rotate through the tandem more than a regular team would.
Usually you have your starter and then the backup to handle just the back-to-back games or some other sprinkling of single matches, but for the Wild it’s been just simply trying to find a groove while going back and forth between the veteran Cam Talbot and the post-hype prospect Kaapo Kahkonen. Talbot has played five games this month, and Kahkonen has played four.
Whether it is due to rest, or just simply going with the guy that they liked in the practice before they have to make a decision, it just feels like an odd thing to do — to not hand over the reins to any specific person but just go with the gut.
No one except the coaching staff knows their line of reasoning when it comes to choosing the goaltender, but it is a little bit unsettling for the actual players.
“It’s always frustrating. Everyone’s a competitor. You want the net,” Talbot said. “It’s been that way my entire career, and when you’re not playing, you can do one of two things: You can sit there and sulk, or you can go there and work hard and be ready for your next start. So that’s always been my mentality and that’s how I’m going to continue to approach things.”
Again, it is amazing if it works out in theory—to give some rest to your typical starter and have an actually reliable backup option. But if it causes some inner frustration, then is it worth it? Well, maybe it’s more the fact that during his last three games, Talbot has allowed 13 goals and has earned a save percentage of just .867, all in losses.
There is no true solution to this other than one of the two goaltenders going for it. And it is extremely hard to imagine the Wild heading into the first round of the playoffs and Kahkonen is in the net for Game 1, especially when Talbot is so outspoken about the current situation.
Adding another goaltender is just stirring the pot even more, so I’m going to just call out any hypothetical trade ideas to acquire Marc-Andre Fleury mid-season, or any other netminder, and say that they are incredibly not realistic.
So what do the Wild do now? ...I don’t know just wait it out I guess. At least they haven’t specifically lost games just because of their goaltending.