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Zulgad’s Roundup: Will Dean Evason continue to rotate his goaltenders in the playoffs?

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars
Apr 14, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a save against the Dallas Stars during the third period at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Wild coach Dean Evason has found a successful formula by rotating his two veteran goaltenders. So will he change that in the playoffs?

That will be one of the big questions as the Wild’s first-round series against the St. Louis Blues approaches. Cam Talbot started the day the Wild acquired Marc-Andre Fleury from Chicago at the trade deadline (March 21) and then got the start in the next game against Vancouver.

Fleury was between the pipes two nights later for a win over Columbus. The Wild was set to play their 14th game since that time on Tuesday in Montreal and Fleury and Talbot have rotated in every game. That meant the net was Talbot’s on Tuesday and Fleury likely will get the start on Thursday against Vancouver at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild had gone 9-1-3 with the goalies switching off and you have to wonder if Evason will keep it going in the postseason. The Wild have seven regular-season games remaining and as it currently works out Fleury would be in line to start the playoff opener next month against the Blues.

Talbot started all three of the Wild’s games (0-1-2) against the Blues this season. He gave up six goals on 28 shots before being lifted because of injury in a 6-4 loss in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Target Field and then surrendered four goals on 28 shots and six goal on 30 shots in two overtime losses this month in St. Louis.

Fleury, who was part of three Stanley Cup winning teams during his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh, started all seven games last spring in Vegas’ first round series victory over the Wild. He gave up 12 goals on 173 shots as veteran Robin Lehner watched from the bench. Fleury ended up starting 16 of Vegas’ 19 playoff games before being traded to Chicago in the offseason.

Fleury, 37, has started 154 of the 162 playoff games in which he has appeared, posting a 90-70 record with a 2.53 goals against and .912 save percentage. Talbot, 34, has started 30 of 32 playoff games, including all seven against Vegas last season, and is 15-15 with a 2.45 goals against and .923 saves percentage.

The one thing that is clear is Fleury and Talbot have pushed each other, in a very positive way, since the trade deadline. According to Natural Stat Trick, among goalies (32) who have logged 300 minutes, Fleury is fourth in goals against (1.62), second in goals saved above average (6.84), second in save percentage (.948) and third in high-danger save percentage (.879). Talbot is first in goals against (1.59), fifth in GSAA (6.39), third in save percentage (.947) but 28th in high-danger save percentage (.750).

Teams often like to ride the hot hand when it comes to goaltending in the playoffs, but Evason might be tempted to keep the rotation going as long as both Fleury and Talbot are playing well.

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