ST. PAUL -- Frustrated after another dreadful Wild performance over the weekend, coach Bruce Boudreau challenged somebody — anybody — to take it upon themselves to get the team on a roll.
That’s exactly what backup goaltender Alex Stalock did Tuesday night, Feb. 4, at Xcel Energy Center.
Though the 32-year-old South St. Paul native gave up a pair of late goals before the Wild ultimately prevailed with a 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks, he injected life into a lifeless bunch, making a handful of crucial saves in the most critical moments.
That performance was reason enough for the Wild to roll keep Stalock in goal instead of longtime starter Devan Dubnyk for the foreseeable future.
Just look at the numbers. They speak for themselves.
Stalock already has made a career-high 24 starts this season, boasting a 12-8-3 record, 2.88 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Dubnyk, who has spent the bulk of the season dealing with his wife’s medical issues, is on pace for his fewest starts since arriving in the Twin Cities, and has struggled with a 9-13-2 record, 3.40 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
“We are going to play whoever’s playing the best,” Boudreau said. “It’s not like preseason where we can experiment.”
That would explain why he went with Stalock over Dubnyk for the must-win game against the Blackhawks.
Asked about his decisions, Boudreau responded, “Why not go back to him? We are hoping to find lightning in a bottle from somebody. Maybe he can give us a spark.”
In that respect, it’s hard to imagine Boudreau not starting Stalock against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
He has emerged as the best goaltender on the roster as of late and likely gives the Wild their best chance to chase down a playoff spot in the gridlocked Western Conference.
If the numbers aren’t enough — and Stalock is outperforming Dubnyk in pretty much every metric imaginable — there’s something to be said about the much less scientific eye test.
There have been countless times this season when Stalock has come up with a big save — whether it’s robbing a Grade-A scoring chance or thwarting a breakaway attempt — and the Wild have immediately gone down and scored on the other end.
That’s exactly what happened against the Blackhawks when Stalock denied center Ryan Carpenter on a breakaway on one end and Kevin Fiala scored for the Wild on the ensuing sequence.
“It’s so much fun,” Stalock said. “You make a big save as a goalie and they go down and score, and it feels good because maybe I chipped in on the scoring chance.”
It’s clear that Stalock is up for the challenge of being the guy the Wild lean on, though he doesn’t want it to necessarily come at the expense of Dubnyk.
“In our positions, there are two of us, and both of us want to win games,” Stalock said. “That’s what it is. Just being a competitor, every chance we get to go and get two points, obviously that’s the ultimate goal. We know how good it feels in the locker room when we earn it.”