Jesper Wallstedt had a lot to prove coming into this season, and he might have just sorted it out within the first two appearances in a Minnesota Wild sweater. A massive asterisk over any statement at this time of year — since it is the preseason — but a 19-year-old goaltender just showing up, after putting in a below-average performance on Sunday during a half-game stint against the Colorado Avalanche, and taking over a full 60 minutes to nullify a team’s offense, is incredibly impressive.
He just oozes this coolness that everybody wants in their goaltender. Having a Tim Thomas-esque netminder can be exciting, but also heart attack-inducing. Wallstedt just barely moves because he has anticipated where the puck is going to go and where the shot is going to come from. Just easy playing to have the Wild win their third preseason game by a score of 5-2.
In front of the goal, Tyson Jost led the way offensively with three assists. Marco Rossi got a goal and an assist, while Mason Shaw earned two assists on top of his gutsy effort. On the blue line, it seemed to be the Jonas Brodin Show, scoring a goal and an assist but always being his all-zone responsible self. The entire game played out at a steady pace that ended up growing into domination and confidence clearly building.
The entire first period was defined by special teams. And not in that typical team scores on the power play, the other team does the same sort of way, but just a weird backwards version of that. First, Marco Rossi opened the game’s scoring with a nice little shorthanded tap-in after Mason Shaw caught the stretch pass in motion and earned the easy goal for his teammate.
Shortly after, the Stars just so happened to also score a shorthanded goal, after the Wild earned a man advantage — I told you it was some creepy backwards period! It was tied with one shorthanded goal each in this battle between two fairly similar teams stylistically.
To continue the effort not at 5-on-5, the Wild slowly earned a 5-on-3 power play and Mats Zuccarello was able to score within his first period of preseason to put Minnesota up by one heading into the break.
For the second period, it became evident that we are truly watching the third of seven preseason games. The play became a little sloppy, mostly inactive, and largely unappealing. Just a slog of chips, dumps, and everything in between those possession-giving plays. But luckily for us, the play sped up and the Wild got another goal on the board.
After an exhausting amount of work done by all five Wild skaters in the offensive zone, Brodin got his first goal of the preseason after creeping up, deeper in the zone and getting his shot off on a loose puck. While every Stars player was distracted by whatever was happening on the other side of their zone, Brodin snuck in and got hard contact on the puck to put this game at a difficult distance for Dallas to get to.
And in the third period, the goals just kept on rolling in.
Spurgeon scores on a one-timer set up in a pretty play, and then Sam Steel gets a solid deflection goal after the Stars answered, putting the Wild’s lead back to three goals and that is where it would finish. Minnesota earns a well-deserved 5-2 victory over the Stars.
Up next, the Wild have a little bit of a break before facing the Chicago Blackhawks in Milwaukee on Oct. 2.
Can Tyson Jost keep the momentum going?
While it wasn’t scoring two goals, or getting more revenge against the team that gave up on you, Jost was still noticeable tonight. On a line with Sam Steel and Mats Zuccarello, Jost appeared more comfortable in the offensive zone and was a consistent presence deep in the zone, trying to either win back possession or keep it in the cycle.
He finished with three assists in the game, which is good for those that like to think about points earned in the preseason — but saying that, earning five points so far in the preseason has a little bit more weight than other exhibition production. Certainly keeping the momentum and potentially has increased it.
Will Jesper Wallstedt impress again?
Wallstedt got his first taste of a full game, with Dean Evason opting to now have his netminder play the entire game and not swap the tandem’s positions halfway through the game. In that, the 19-year-old goalie was tested against some very good hockey players on the Stars and succeeded.
The young netminder saved 33 of the 35 shots he faced, which is simply above-above-average for an NHL starter, but this is someone that was drafted barely over a year ago. He did exactly what you want and did not look out of place whatsoever. The most calm and cool goaltender we might have ever watched was in between the pipes for the Wild tonight and he just keeps on making us believe in him more with every game.
Can Sam Steel endear himself to Dean Evason?
Steel was given a massive opportunity tonight, starting on the top line with two bonafide regulars in Jost and Zuccarello — and he just took it and ran with it. He scored the one deflection goal as his single point, but he was skating hard, getting into the corners and keeping his stick active enough that he broke up a couple plays while also featuring on the penalty kill. With all of these players fighting for their improved roles on this team, we do not envy Dean Evason and the lineup decision he is going to have to make.