The goalie tandem of Cam Talbot and Kappo Kahkonen was a big question mark for the Minnesota Wild at the start of the season. Talbot had yet to prove to many that he had more than just one good season in him and Kahkonen, still technically a rookie, had shown flashes of brilliance, but also flashes of failure.
So were they good enough?
Marc-Andre Fleury answered that at the trade deadline, as after weeks of below average net-minding, Kahkonen was sent to San Jose and the reigning Vezina winner was brought in from Chicago
Talbot, not to be out-done by the newcomer, has been on fire lately. He has gone 8-0-0 in his last nine games, posting a 2.13 goals against average (GAA), 0.924 save percentage (sv%), and a shutout while doing so. Talbot has been so good in-fact, he was named the first star of the week by the NHL.
So with a tandem that now includes a red-hot All-Star caliber netminder in Talbot, and a future hall-of-famer in Fleury, do the Minnesota Wild have the best goaltending tandem in franchise history?
There is no doubt that the Wild have had some great goaltending in their 20 previous years. A mid-season acquisition of Devan Dubnyk in 2015 paired with a young Darcy Kuemper to drag a slumping Wild team into the playoffs with a 1.78 GAA and a 0.936 SV% in 39 games played.
Their playoff run unfortunately ended in the second round to the Blackhawks.
Dubnyk and Kuemper would continue to lead the Wild to the playoffs for the next two seasons but while they were together, unfortunately never able to make it past the first round. Dubnyk carried a strong majority of the playing time in this tandem as a true starter, with Kuemper being a less than reliable back-up.
A strong back-up was something the Wild had seen before in Josh Harding.
A record breaking season in ’07-’08 was lead by Wild goalie legend Niklas Bäckström in tandem with a young Harding as they topped the Northwest Division.
While this duo was also strongly reliant on Bäckström, he had the benefit of some great performances by Harding over the course of the six seasons they would play together. Unfortunately Harding was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and some unlucky injuries ended his career earlier than most had hoped.
In stark contrast to Harding’s short career was early Wild pick-up Dwayne Roloson.
Roloson would form a strong pair with Manny Fernandez to make a 1-2 punch in net for the Wild. This was one of the few times in their history that saw nearly equal play time as both goalies had solid performances for their four seasons together.
Roloson and Fernandez were one of the few tandems in Wild history that both had the ability to steal a game, no doubt contributing to the deepest playoff run in Wild history, as they made it all the way to the Conference Finals in the ’02-’03 season.
The newly formed pair of Talbot and Fleury has a similar feel in that both goalies can be relied on in the playoffs. That was made evident last year when Fleury was still with the Vegas Golden Knights. Both goalies managed to steal games for their respective teams, with Fleury eventually coming out on top in Game 7.
With both now at the Wild’s disposal, their hopes at a deep run seem more alive than ever, but with only one game played in a Wild uniform, it remains to be seen if Fleury will manage to capture that same level of play.
Expect both goaltenders to get starts over the remaining 18 games as Fleury will look to gain his footing with his new team, and Talbot will try to continue his hot streak. If both manage to live up to expectations, Wild fans may already be watching history in the making.