From all the post game chatter about Devan Dubnyk, there didn’t seem like there was much to worry about. Bruce Boudreau trusted his No. 1 to let the staff know if he couldn’t go and he ended up finishing the rest of a rough first period against Calgary last night.
But then the ominous words were said to Alex Stalock as skated to the bench during a TV timeout.
Be ready, “just in case.”
The case came in, and fortunately for the Wild, Stalock came in and made sixteen regulation saves and only let in one goal during the shootout from Johnny Gaudreau, maybe.
This summer, I touched on the fancy stats community’s thoughts on the Wild’s goaltender situation, and it appeared bleak. Boudreau’s backup has performed well in his role, winning four of his nine starts with a GAA of 2.93 and a save percentage of .907 (league average is .911). Not bad, considering the Hockey Abstract diagnosis of “Dubnyk has a great upside, but is without a proven back up.”
However, as Dubnyk puts on the lead vest for an MRI today, there might be questions as to whom will be getting the call-up from Des Moines to backup the backup.
Niklas Svedberg - 15 starts, 2.81 GAA/.906 SV%
The Sollentuna, Sweden native was one of the many “depth” signings this summer for General Manager Chuck Fletcher, touting the pedigree of playing in four different professional leagues, though having spent the last two years playing for Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL.
A league where he posted a .897 save percentage in 48 starts in the Chernyshev Division.
His contract was low-risk, just one season, but it’s peculiar that he’s the team’s second highest paid netminder (on paper) while splitting reps in the AHL.
Minnesota has only called him up in an emergency situation before, but that was because Stalock was tending to his wife for the birth of their second child. In other words, he got to wear the ball cap and watch Dubnyk do his thing.
If it’s a long-term problem for the Wild, he’d be the guy to make the trip up I-35. Numbers-wise, he has the most experience with over 280 appearances as a professional to Steve Michalek’s 52. He also started the season as Iowa’s No. 1 with Adam Vay sitting on the bench, but doing not much else as Michalek tended to a “personal issue” to start the season.
What are you going to be upset with when you look at his HockeyDB page? Well, first it’ll be his size. He’s listed at 6’0”, which isn’t everything, but the current trend is to go with guys in net that add some intimidation factor; 6’2”+ in most cases.
Next would be his .906 save percentage in a league like the AHL (Stalock was a .926 performer in 50 starts for Iowa). However, amongst goalies with at least 15 starts in the A (only 13), he’s ranked fifth and has seen the seventh most shots out of them (449).
Slightly disconcerting is that he’s averaged over three goals against in his last three starts and recently missed a few starts with an injury of his own that required Iowa to bring up a ‘tender from an ECHL affiliate that wasn’t their own.
He plays a really aggressive style, both in how he approaches opposing rushes and how he protects his crease. Michalek has a fight to his credit, but Svedberg has given more than a few blockers to the backs of screeners heads after the whistle and even propositioned Rockford’s J.F. Bérubé after a scrum on the road earlier this season.
If you’re conjuring visions of how far Patrick Roy played out of his net, you can put those to bed. The only time I’ve seen him come far out and it was costly was in that 4-3 overtime loss to San Diego (Anaheim) where Ryan White was the hero in Sved’s first start back since injury.
Svedberg’s biggest flaw would be inconsistency. When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s not, expect a track race. He’s only put up one back-to-back where he’s given up two goals or less. It’s more likely that he’d get called up over Michalek simply due to his experience if there’s a need for a long-term backup solution.
Steve Michalek - 9 starts, 2.52 GAA/.926 SV%
First off, I like Stevie. He’s a cool guy and really laid back off the ice. When he’s dialed in on the ice, you’re going to have a hard time getting pucks past him. The Glastonbury, Conn., native is well-like around the locker room and Brad Bombardir told me that he wouldn’t have a problem with calling up Michalek in a pinch.
And now we have a pinch.
However, Bomber also included Svedberg in that same breath. Michalek is a 6th round pick from six seasons ago, but there are still plenty of things to work on. Could he benefit from some NHL minutes for his development? Sure. Is he the guy I’d want waiting on the bench if Stalock went down? I’m not too sure, at least right now.
That aforementioned stint where Svedberg was out with injury was Michalek’s first real test in the position of No. 1. In his first start, he gave up three goals, and all three drew scrutiny from the development staff, including the head of goalie development, Frédéric Chabot.
After starting the season win an unblemished record, “Stevie” went 1-1-2, saw his GAA spike above 2.00 and his save percentage lose a couple of points. Although Iowa was able to get points with him in net, Iowa blew two third period leads en route to two points instead of four.
After Svedberg returned, Michalek had an amazing performance in a 40 save effort where he conceded one goal and stopped all thirteen shots he faced in the third period. The knock you could draw there is that he performs better when there’s a safety net.
In terms of overall stats, even with just nine starts, he’s 15th in GAA and tied for 8th in save percentage with recent NHLer, Louis Domingue.
He makes more clean saves with the glove than he lets in, the blocker is pretty good, and his rebound control rarely appears to be an issue. On a team as defensive-minded as Iowa, he’s in a position to thrive.
Still, Derek Lalonde has some reservations about Michalek’s place within the organization. This season, in his estimation, is Michalek’s big test to see if he’s stepping in the right direction of becoming the team’s true No. 3 option. Following that 4-2 loss to Milwaukee after a few pretty large mental errors, that left the No. 3 status at “TBD”.
He was one of the last cuts from training camp this summer and has a lot of potential, but I think that he’d benefit more from getting starts in Des Moines over riding the bench in St. Paul.