The Minnesota Wild have an interesting decision to make regarding their goalkeeper heading into the 2020 Playoff Race. Facing the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of extended playoffs, the underdog Wild have the same choice it has had since the beginning of the season: start veteran Devan Dubnyk, who has been with the team longer and has the better career record, or put Alex Stalock behind the crease, who has less experience, but emerged as the clear starter before the league shut down.
Dubnyk has been with the Wild since the 2015-2016 season when he signed a six-year, $26 million contract. With this being the second-to-last year of his contract, most would expect Dubnyk to either be traded or start, but that was not the case during the 2019-2020 season. Dubnyk played second-fiddle to Stalock, who by all accounts was the better goalie. Dubnyk attributed his poor play to dealing with his wife’s medical issues, but many believe the 34-year-old is finally hitting a wall. With the worst stats of his career so far, including an abysmal save percentage of .890% in 30 games (28 starts), many expected him to remain behind Stalock for the playoffs, but an abysmal exhibition game by Stalock might save his chances and his career with the Wild.
Stalock, who turned 33 on July 28, was the polar opposite of Dubnyk during the season. Stalock was above league-average with a .910% save percentage and less than 2.7 goals allowed per game. By all accounts, he was the new Wild goalie and proved to be a good signing in his first season of a three-year, $2,335,000 contract. Stalock, however, showed a lot of rust in his first game since the league was shut down in March, giving up three goals on just 17 shots in just over 30 minutes of play against the Colorado Avalanche. For comparison, Dubnyk shut out the Avalanche, going just under 28 scoreless minutes whilst collecting 12 saves.
Both goalies have obvious strengths and weaknesses. Stalock, the “young” gun that came in and overtook the starting job in his first year with the team, did not seem to be able to shake off the rust in the only chance he had to prove himself before the playoffs. Dubnyk, on the other hand, played a solid game and has a proven track record, but is coming off of the worst season of his career, and is sure to have doubters. The Wild are not fortunate to have a goalie tandem that they feel comfortable throwing either goalie into the fire like the Bruins have with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Despite the worries of who needs to be behind the net, the Wild need to make a choice, and quickly. Every game matters this series, and without a good first game from whomever, the team decided to put in goal, who knows if the team will recover.