Four starters have taken turns making big saves, but can such an arrangement succeed in the playoffs?
The Wild ran out of healthy goalies this week so former playoff hero Andrew Brunette had to put on size XXL pads and serve as a proxy during one practice.
Brunette’s stumble-bumble routine provided some good laughs, but it also underscored the Wild’s precarious goaltending situation as a playoff berth inches closer to reality.
Injuries have forced the Wild to give the crease to its fourth No. 1 goalie of the season, Ilya Bryzgalov, who was supposed to be nothing more than an insurance rental when he was acquired via trade one month ago. Suddenly, Bryzgalov might be the most important player on the roster.
If Bryzgalov can maintain his hot hand and recapture whatever it was that made him effective in previous stops, the Wild can enter the playoffs reasonably confident in its ability to compete. If Bryzgalov implodes, the Wild might have exhausted its options.
Where have you gone, Roli the Goalie?
Seriously, what a weird season it’s been for the Wild at the most critical position in hockey. The team should have attached a turnstile to the goal and charged admission.
Niklas Backstrom began the season as the No. 1 option until he got injured.
Then, Josh Harding saved the season until he experienced complications related to his multiple sclerosis.
Then, young Darcy Kuemper saved the season until he started to falter and suffered an injury.
Now, it’s Bryzgalov’s turn to save the season and buoy the Wild’s playoff hopes.
“This year has been a goaltender-by-committee scenario, and that’s probably not the way you want to do it every year,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “It’s been a strange season, but we’ve had four goaltenders play for us that have played extremely well.”
This revolving-door routine is far from ideal, but it’s not necessarily outside the norm, not even for playoff teams. The Wild used four goalies and made the playoffs last season. That was different though, because Backstrom started 41 of the 48 regular-season games.
Chicago and Colorado also have used four goalies this season and already have secured playoff berths. Three teams — Boston, Florida and Ottawa — made the playoffs despite using four goalies in 2011-12, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Wild dressed its seventh different goalie — John Curry — for Thursday’s game at Chicago, a number that seems unfathomably high, except it’s not even the most in the NHL this season. Edmonton has dressed eight goalies, according to Elias.
The Wild’s situation appears particularly unusual because each goalie was asked to fill a significant void. It’s not as if the Wild only needed a spot start here or there to give the main guy a breather.
Harding leads the pack with 29 games played. By comparison, the Wild has had a goaltender play in at least 42 games in every season of its existence.
Here’s another way to look at it: The Wild started four different goalies in five games against the Blackhawks this season.
“At the time, none of the goalies that we started were our backup,” Fletcher noted. “We played what we felt to be our best goaltender at that time. It’s been unusual to say the least.”
|Cleveland||1||Top 2nd Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||1||Top 3rd Inning|
|Washington||1||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Toronto||0||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Atlanta||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Boston||0||Top 1st Inning|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn||1:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - M. Fiers|
|Kansas City - E. Volquez||2:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - J. Danks|
|Texas - N. Martinez||2:35 PM|
|LA Angels - H. Santiago|
|Houston - A. Wojciechowski||3:05 PM|
|Oakland - D. Pomeranz|
|Los Angeles - S. Baker||3:10 PM|
|San Diego - B. Morrow|
|Pittsburgh - F. Liriano||3:10 PM|
|Arizona - J. Hellickson|
|San Francisco - T. Lincecum||3:10 PM|
|Colorado - T. Matzek|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson||3:10 PM|
|Seattle - H. Iwakuma|
|NY Mets - J. Niese||7:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - N. Eovaldi|
|Cleveland||35||2nd Qtr 8:42|
|LA Clippers||2:30 PM|
|St. Louis||2:00 PM|
|Los Angeles||4:00 PM|
|Red Bull New York|
|Toronto FC||6:00 PM|