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  • How Will the Wild Manage Their Goalies In The Playoffs?

    Cam Jensen

    The Stanley Cup playoffs are right around the corner, and the Minnesota Wild are all but guaranteed a spot. This year’s playoffs are a big test for the Wild, as they have shown this is a new-look team with a brand new leadership group. But after two straight first-round exits, can they finally make a deep run in the postseason? Bill Guerin bolstered the team at the trade deadline by adding Nicolas Deslauriers and Jacob Middleton to bring size and grit, and Marc-Andre Fleury to help the goaltending situation.


    That’s not the first time Guerin wheeled and dealed, though. At the draft before the 2020-21 season, Guerin traded Luke Kunin for Nick Bonino and picks. Then, just after the season started, Guerin traded Greg Pateryn to the Colorado Avalanche for Ian Cole. The point of these trades? To bring in proven Stanley Cup winners into the locker room. However, ultimately we saw the same result the State of Hockey is all too familiar with: a first-round exit.


    Bonino and Cole left for other teams in free agency this summer, so who do the Wild have to lead them through the playoffs? Other than Fleury, the only Cup-winner on the Wild’s roster is Alex Goligoski, who won the Stanley Cup his rookie year with Fleury. However, he only appeared in two postseason games for the Pittsburgh Penguins.


    There’s a void to fill when it comes to playoff producers on the Wild. Last summer, they bought out Zach Parise, their leader in playoff goals, assists, and points. This year’s team is better than last year's, but it has less playoff experience, so it will be interesting how Minnesota composes itself in the playoffs.


    The playoffs are a different breed of hockey, and the Wild need every edge they can get to make up for their lack of experience. Luckily, they’ve got a big advantage in that department -- Fleury. He waived his No-Trade Clause to come to Minnesota and try to win his fourth Cup. Still, the Wild's goalie rotation is something to keep an eye on down the stretch.


    Talbot and Fleury have been starting every other game, and it will be interesting to see what Dean Evason’s plan is for the playoffs. It is also worth noting that if Fleury wins fewer than four games, or the Wild do not make it out of the second round, the conditional first-round pick the Wild gave up to acquire Fleury becomes a second-round pick. Would the Wild even think of salvaging their first-rounder by splitting the starts in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs?


    It is also possible that they are rotating goalies to give Fleury a bit of rest before the end of the season. In that case, it means they plan to ride Fleury through the playoffs. That would also make sense because a team probably shouldn’t give up a conditional first-round pick if they’re not ultimately okay with losing it. But since starting goalies every other game can keep them from getting in a groove, and a red-hot netminder is almost essential to win the Cup, it may be best to give the reins to Fleury very soon.


    The Parise and Suter Era is over. The new-and-improved Wild are giving fans an eventful and exciting season filled with come-from-behind wins. If that ability to rally from just about any deficit is still there in the playoffs, it could be the trick up their sleeve that they need to finally have some playoff success.


    The Wild have made the playoffs 10 times in the past 21 seasons, and they have only made it out of the first round three times. Minnesota will have to play two months of consistent hockey against great teams if they want to hoist the Stanley Cup. This Wild team is completely reinvented, but they still have a lot to prove. If the Wild can stay physical, get the best out of Fleury, and get past some hot netminders, then they should have what it takes to win the Cup.

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