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Alex Stalock stepped up in an underrated, but vital, role for the Wild

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NHL: Minnesota Wild at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s awfully difficult to find anyone that won’t root for Alex Stalock. He’s a guy possesses a likable personality, has that East Side St. Paul blue collar sensibility that is infectious and one to rally around. When he’s in the goalcrease, he’s active and looks like he trying to throw elbows, gloves, and everything short of the kitchen sink at the puck to keep it out of the net. Yeah, even this Gopher fan can even root for a Bulldog.

Stalock’s goalie style is probably closer to the hybrid butterfly style you saw from goaltenders in the 90’s. He’s active in the crease and likes to wander outside of the blue paint often. His defensemen must love the way he plays the puck and makes their ability to turn their backs and retrieve the puck all the more simple.

He’s got the fight in the net, and some great intangibles that the guys in that locker room appreciate. His head coach finally trusted a back-up goalie for the Wild to take on a decent workload and it’s because Stalock was giving his team a chance to win.

For the early part of the season, him and Devan Dubnyk were splitting time and had almost identical save percentages. The Wild went with Stalock during the offseason after letting noted Staples Center Aficionado Darcy Kuemper go and sign a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Kuemper had a hard time securing a starting role, which prompted then General Manager Chuck Fletcher to send a 3rd round pick Arizona’s direction for Dubnyk. But Kuemper had shown that he couldn’t be trusted with a back-up role either. That’s when Stalock entered the picture and goalie insurance if Kuemper couldn’t [Matt] hack it.

Stalock came into the season having put up decent numbers on a bad Iowa Wild team in 50 games. A .926 save percentage is only average, but if he could give the Wild that when Dubnyk needed a spell, or worse, got injured, average isn’t a bad alternative.

Well, Dubnyk started the season well below his average since joining the Wild and Stalock did enough to get more play. Unfortunately, for the season, we didn’t see that .926 save percentage. We saw a .910 save percentage, while getting brutal back-to-backs against some tough opponents. We saw all year that the Wild not just struggled in back-to-backs, but they were downright putrid, often suffering lopsided losses due to a lack of depth, talent, and fatigue.

Stalock was mostly what we had expected. His numbers were not going to jump off the page at anyone, nor was he dethrone Dubnyk as the starter. But when Dubnyk did go down with an injury and had to miss a few games, Stalock kept the Wild above water in December by going 5-4 in 9 games. Really, it was about all you could ask for from your back-up.

For years, this team needed a back-up goalie that can take some games from Dubnyk. Mike Yeo was guilty of it, and last season, Bruce Boudreau was guilty of relying on Dubnyk for the lion’s share of the workload. So, it’s strangely coincidental that the Wild didn’t have swoon this year, the same year that Stalock played just shy of 30 games. Even the best goalies in the league run into ruts for a stretch and it’s a gigantic benefit for the team to rely on a quality back-up goalie.

Stalock was good this season. You can’t say he was anything more than good, and he certainly didn’t stink up the joint. Maybe my bar is lower than others, but I’d give him a solid B- if I was giving a letter grade. Maybe that’s because I was expecting less and got more. That .910 came on tough back-to-backs and when called upon, he stepped up. It’s hard not to root for a guy like that.