Examining the Wild's goaltending plan
March, 25, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Wild are poised to make the playoffs, but do they have the goaltending to seriously contend?He had just earned his second win as a member of the Minnesota Wild, improving to 2-0-2 since the trade that sent him from the bottom of the standings into the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. Ilya Bryzgalov was approached for a quick chat, to see how things were going in his new surroundings.
“Like Leonidas said, ‘Choose your words wisely,’” Bryzgalov said while taking off his equipment.
The sense of humor is still there, and with another win, he’s proving that his game isn’t gone either. But following the quick joke, Bryzgalov got serious to talk about the new life he’s been given with the Wild. He’s cognizant of just how good this could be.
“I see, like, every game as opportunity to play, enjoy the game,” Bryzgalov said. “We’re working hard team. We know every one of us knows our role. Try to be our best in our position to put all marbles together and play hard and try to win the games. As many as possible.”
Perhaps everyone does, as Bryzgalov suggests, know their role, but as the playoffs loom, it will be fascinating to discover exactly what his role will be on this team.
When you look at the goalies of the Western Conference playoff teams, it’s a list of the best in the world. There’s Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Antti Niemi, Jonas Hiller, Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov. It’s a ridiculous list, really. There are multiple Stanley Cup winners, Olympians, All-Stars, all guys you’d be comfortable starting in Game 7 of a playoff series.
Then there’s the Wild, a club that had a tandem of Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom at the start of the season but has seen both sidelined due to health problems.
Mike Yeo’s Wild are grinding their way to the postseason, collecting points in nearly every game to where SportsClubStats.com projects them with a 92.4 percent chance of making the postseason. Barring a Toronto-like collapse, they’re in. And this team is too good to be concerned about that.
But what happens when they get there? The Wild are beyond the point where it’s a franchise just happy to be in the postseason. They want to make a run and have the players up front and on defense to do it.
Realistically, the team on the other side of the ice will have an edge in goal. No matter who it is.