ST. PAUL — Much of Alex Stalock’s time with the Wild has been spent waiting for an opportunity to start when it made sense to give starting goalie Devan Dubnyk a breather. That’s no longer the case and it’s safe to say right now Stalock should be considered the Wild’s No. 1 goalie.
That comes after Stalock won his second consecutive start on Saturday night as the Wild cruised to a 7-0 victory over Dallas at Xcel Energy Center. Stalock made 27 saves to get his second shutout of the season after stopping 18 shots in a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Stalock got that start following the Wild’s embarrassing 7-3 loss on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Dubnyk played the entire game against the Penguins and faced 29 shots in a one-sided loss that dropped the Wild to 1-5-1 in their past seven games. Dubnyk had started two in a row, including a 4-1 loss against Vancouver on Sunday.
Coach Bruce Boudreau has long said that Dubnyk is the Wild’s top goalie and that wasn’t going to change but he appears to have little choice but to stick with Stalock as the Wild prepares to play host to Florida on Monday and Detroit on Wednesday before Minnesota begins the All-Star break.
Stalock entered Saturday’s game with a 6-1-1 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and .916 save percentage at home, so having him continue to start at the X makes even more sense. Stalock made a big save halfway through the first period Saturday when he stopped Dallas’ Denis Gurianov on a breakaway after Matt Dumba lost the puck at the point. Shortly after Stalock’s stop, Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon beat goalie Anton Khudobin with a slapshot to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Stalock also made 13 saves in the second period.
“Yeah, it’s a conundrum,” Boudreau said when asked about Stalock’s performance and the decision-making process of which goalie starts. “If they push each other, just like forwards keep pushing each other, the defense keep pushing each other, it makes you a better team as a group.”
Stalock’s start Saturday was his 22nd this season — one off the single-season high he has made in three-plus years with the Wild — but that’s because the veteran saw extensive playing time earlier this season when Dubnyk was away from the team so he could attend to a family situation.
Does this mean Dubnyk isn’t going to play going forward? Obviously not. But with how things are going for the playoff-longshot Wild, continuing to start Stalock shouldn’t be a tough call.
- Stalock didn’t hold back on his feelings after taking a late hit from the knee of Dallas’ Corey Perry, who has been known for questionable hits in the past. The Wild was up 6-0 when Perry drew a roughing penalty and also a 10-minute misconduct for an altercation that got the Wild’s Luke Kunin a 10-minute misconduct. The Wild’s Ryan Hartman scored a goal on the power play. “How much time is left on the clock?” Stalock said. “It’s a six or seven nothing game and I don’t know why you can’t help yourself there. It’s clearly a knee to the head. It was only a week or two ago, (Perry) was not even three minutes into (the Winter Classic) game and he elbows (Nashville’s Ryan Ellis) in the head. He can’t help himself. Hopefully, (the NHL) looks at it. There’s no need for it. He knows he’s wrong, he knows he’s making a bad play. It’s stupid.” Perry was suspended five games for the hit on Ellis.
- One game after being dropped to the fourth line, captain Mikko Koivu was scratched from Saturday’s game because of illness. Koivu wasn’t on the power play on Thursday and he had only one assist in seven games since returning from a lower-body injury that forced him to miss 12 games.
- Koivu’s absence created an opportunity for Ryan Donato to get back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Thursday. Donato also was going to be scratched Tuesday, but Boudreau’s mistake with the lineup card forced Donato to dress for the game as it was starting. Donato played almost no role in that game, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday as he scored his ninth goal of the season in the second period, added an assist in the third period and was a plus-2. With Koivu out, Donato replaced him as the center on the fourth line.
- This sets up an interesting situation for Monday night’s game against Florida. Donato needs to keep playing so does Boudreau continue to scratch Koivu, even if he’s ready to return? Does he scratch center Victor Rask, who frequently finds himself as the odd man out but was promoted to the second line the past two games? Boudreau acknowledged that Donato played “really well” on Saturday and added, “let’s see where he goes on Monday, let’s see what happens.” Asked about who might be scratched on Monday, Boudreau said: “Listen, let me sleep tonight. I don’t have to make that decision tonight. We’ll make decisions tomorrow and the next day.”
- As for Donato, he sounds like a guy who is tired of sitting. “I think that’s the type of game that I could always play,” he said. “I’ve just got to be given the chance and today I was lucky to have it. Obviously, it was a great asset for our team. It’s tough to see (Koivu) go but when somebody goes down the next guy has to step up. I was lucky to be able to get to know in time this time and be ready to play.”
- Jason Zucker’s steal of a poor pass from Dallas defenseman John Klingberg resulted in Carson Soucy’s first-period goal that gave the Wild a 2-0 lead. That was only one key play by Zucker as he also scored his 13th goal and picked up another assist on Minnesota’s fifth goal. Wild general manager Bill Guerin had to be delighted to see that because with Guerin’s former team, the Penguins, reportedly interested in Zucker, performances like the one the winger had Saturday also drives up his potential value as the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches.
- The Wild improved to 11-2-1 on Hockey Day in Minnesota and have outscored opponents 47-28 in those games.
- The Wild improved to 2-0 to start a seven-game homestand and during a stretch in which they will play 11 of 12 at home. The Wild will begin the All-Star break after playing the Panthers on Monday and the Red Wings on Wednesday. The All-Star festivities are next weekend in St. Louis.