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Friday, December 09, 2022

John Shipley: Wilde must use goalkeeper’s depth while it can still make a difference

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Wilde has no problem scoring goals, not with two good guys. But do they have the goalkeeper issue? They will do so if they don’t reach their first-round, best-of-seven playoff series against St. Louis on Wednesday.

Nine times out of 10, rolling out Marc-Andre Fleury for a post-season game is a no-brainer. The veteran is named in three Stanley Cups and last season led Vegas to the Western Conference Finals—two years after leading the Golden Knights in the Cup Finals. The point is, Minnesota has Cam Talbot, who is better than his fellow teammate on the bench.

Had Bill Guerin not acquired his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Fleury by the March 21 trade deadline, coaches Dean Iveson and Wilde would run with Talbot and feel good about it, as they did in seven matches against Vegas. In the series of did last season. ,

Maybe it’s still a no-brainer for Wilde coach Dean Iveson. He may not have exactly scaled the skids on Tuesday for Fleury’s return in Game 2, but the coach made it clear he didn’t blame the goalkeeper for Monday’s 4-0 loss at the Xcel Energy Center in Game 1 .

Fleury dropped too many rebounds for the Blues, who converted four of them into goals. But three of those goals were, for all intents and purposes, the result of a power play, even though the third – all by left winger David Perron – had wound up at a Blues man-advantage a few seconds after the clock.

Perón may have been the lucky recipient of three rebounds, which his tapes revealed, but Evson said, “there’s no one there to fight it.”

Ryan O’Reilly’s second period, on an even-strength goal that gave the Blues a 2-0 lead, stood alone at the corner of the crease and was able to get his rebound behind a melee Fleury.

“There’s no spirit around him, is there?” Evans said. “That’s where we need to gather people in that area. He’s the ultimate example. He advises it and gets his own rebound, and there’s no one to help. It’s Marc-Andre Fleury It’s not his fault. He’s there for not being around us and clearing the puck.”

The Blues’ victory was complete, hard on. Including playing goalkeeper.

But Fleury is allowed to drop the rebound, especially when he barely delivers the first. His first major task, in fact, was to block a penalty shot by Ivan Barbyshev at 3:50 of the first period. Blues goalkeeper Ville Hasso dropped some juicy rebounds for Wilde as well, and the best Minnesota could do with any of them was a post hit.

Had someone thought that Evans should have started Talbot on Monday, it makes sense to start him in Wednesday night’s game. Talbot was good down the stretch, and Wilde, in his best performance since taking over Fleury, went 8-0-3 with 2.25 goals—against average and save .926 percent. At the end of the season, their time split. Why change now?

Some of it may simply be aesthetic. Fleury, 37, is about a chronology among goalscorers the way Martin Brodeur used to be a chronicler during his final days in New Jersey. Modern goaltenders are technicians, trained to stay on their feet. Others cannot get the more flurries, diving, lunges and scrambling for the puck of a pure athlete.

But he also needs his skaters to pull off the rebound.

Evans says he doesn’t look back at the game in front of him and that’s probably smart, especially in the post season, when every defeat is a nail in the team’s coffin. There is a speculation that he will start the goaltender who he feels gives Wilde the best chance of the series before leaving for St.

As he said on Sunday, he has two good options, so the choice is easy. But at the bottom of a game, with the home-ice advantage lost, it’s at least a little harder.

If Fleury is out on Wednesday and Wilde wins, no problem. But Evans said Monday night he doubts both goaltenders will be needed if Wilde is to score a deep playoff run. Is the 1-0 deficit in a seven-match series too early to reach that depth? No. And it may be too late to wait until they are in trouble.

The Minnesota goaltender’s depth is an advantage, and Wilde should use it before it’s too late.

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