The Wild’s win and point totals aren’t the only barometers that rank the team among the best in the NHL.
Its save percentage and goals-against average also sit in the top 10, and that effectiveness by the Wild’s goaltending tandem has been especially clear in back-to-back games — a rigorous challenge the team has excelled at this season.
“I take pride in back-to-backs,” backup Alex Stalock said. “I think good teams are doing that this year. If you pick up four points in a hurry like that in two days, it goes a long way in the standings.”
On the brink of its fifth two-game set this weekend, the team is 2-2 in the first test and an impressive 4-0 in the second — this after the Wild secured only five wins in that situation all last season.
Stalock has handled three of those games and overall, he and No. 1 Devan Dubnyk have posted a solid .926 save percentage in the second game.
“They’re important,” Dubnyk said. “It’s too easy to use an excuse, ‘We got the first one.’ It’s good. You play too many of them to not need to go and win. You need to get those sweeps and win that second one. You can’t use it an excuse to let the game go.”
Dubnyk prefers to suit up for the first game of a back-to-back because the second usually comes after travel. Stalock doesn’t mind either assignment, but he’s certainly developed a knack for the closer role.
As sometimes the only fresh face on the ice, he can set the tone in the first period and buoy a tired team in front of him until it discovers more energy.
“The whole thing for years and years is to jump on them early and get the lead,” Stalock explained. “That’s what teams try do. But in terms of a goalie, that’s what you want to start the game. You want a lot of shots [to] start feeling good versus games like in Anaheim [last Friday] where you have five shots in the first period, and going into the second period you don’t get much work.”
That effort against the Ducks in a 5-1 win capped off a back-to-back sweep for the Wild, its second of the season.
It’s unclear if the Wild will deploy its netminders in the same order this weekend; coach Bruce Boudreau said the team will settle on a plan Friday or Saturday, with the Wild hosting the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday before traveling to Chicago to face the Blackhawks on Sunday.
But based on the results so far, both goalies have given the Wild a chance to compete during the tough turnaround.
“If a guy goes out in the first one and plays great,” Dubnyk said, “you want to make sure you’re doing the same.”
Center Eric Fehr got word around 10 p.m. Tuesday that his wife, Rachel, was headed to the hospital and after rushing out of Xcel Energy Center following a 5-2 loss to the Capitals, Fehr was on hand for son Theodore’s arrival at 11:13 p.m.
“Made it just in time,” he said.
This was the couple’s third child and his son’s impending birth was on Fehr’s mind while the team was on the road last week. Fehr is the second player so far this season to have a baby. Captain Mikko Koivu kicked off the team’s baby boom — a handful more players are expecting — last month.
“[Having a child] in season is always a little bit tricky,” Fehr said. “Mikko obviously missed a game. Timing is always a concern. Everything worked out really well, and the family is healthy so [I’m] really happy.”
Winger Zach Parise missed the game Thursday against the Canucks due to illness. Forward Matt Hendricks subbed in, his first appearance since Nov. 6.