When the Minnesota Wild return to the ice Tuesday night after a two-week hiatus, they will do so without Cam Talbot, who remains on the league’s COVID list. Talbot was the Wild’s marquee signing this past offseason, brought in to stabilize the goaltender position, which general manager Bill Guerin singled out as needing the most improvement.
So far this year, Talbot has been what the Wild have needed in goal. While he has missed a week with an injury and will be on the COVID list when Minnesota resumes play on Tuesday, Talbot has been reliable when he’s in action.
The Wild have won three out of the five games Talbot has started and finished. While that record may not jump off the page, the numbers behind those starts show how good he’s been at keeping things close when he’s between the pipes.
Talbot has produced -0.23 goals saved above expectation (GSAx). GSAx measures whether a goaltender is stopping shots they should be and not allowing goals from low danger areas. Talbot’s -0.23 means he is average. He stops the shots he needs to but doesn’t make a lot of saves from shots in high-danger areas.
The Wild were among the worst in the league for GSAx in the past couple seasons. For reference, last year’s goalies, Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock, posted a -27.49 and -16.64 GSAx, which is bottom five in the league.
While Talbot has been merely average in terms of goals saved above expectation, he has been solid when it counts the most — in the third period and overtime.
Think back to the past couple of seasons when a Wild goaltender would allow a back-breaking goal that killed a rally, one that maybe should have been stopped. Talbot has been a stabilizer so far.
Talbot has a .951 save percentage in the third period. He has a .942 save percentage at even strength and has not allowed a goal while the Wild are on the penalty kill in the third. (To their credit, the PK has only allowed five shots against on the kill in the third period while Talbot has been in net.)
Then you get to overtime, another place where the Wild have been abysmal in recent seasons. While more of that had to do with skater deployment, some was on goaltending. But Talbot has been in the goal for each of the three overtime games, and has helped the Wild win them all.
Talbot has only has faced three shots against, and in one game he never needed to make an overtime save, but having the presence of a steady hand in goal has given the Wild a boost.
Back in his days with the New York Rangers, Talbot earned the nickname “Calm Talbot” for his general demeanor between the pipes. Now that placid demeanor has found its way into the Wild goal, and it has cast a soothing presence over the team, particularly in the later periods.
While the late-period success might not be sustainable for the entire season, Talbot has endeared himself to his new teammates and gives them added confidence that they can make a comeback knowing he is in the goal and will be tough to beat.
With more confidence from the team in front of him, Talbot could make a world of difference for the Wild as they chase a playoff spot when the season resumes.
Goals saved above expectation stats via Evolving Hockey