Do the Minnesota Wild Have a Sustainable ‘Flower’ in Net?

Marc-Andre Fleury is greeted by teammate Mats Zuccarello after the Minnesota Wild's 1-0 win over Seattle on Friday.(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Marc-Andre Fleury is greeted by teammate Mats Zuccarello after the Minnesota Wild's 1-0 win over Seattle on Friday.(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

We all know about Marc-Andre Fleury’s dreadful start to the year. He has rebounded in a big way since then, being among the league’s best goaltenders since allowing four goals in Boston on Oct. 22.

But since that time he has been absolutely elite and has helped drag the Wild, despite some offensive struggles to a winning record.

Between Oct 13-22, Fleury was the worst goalie in the entire league. He had a GSAA (goals saved above average) of -6.59 and a GSAx (goals saved above expected) of -5.49. Both of these marks are worst in the league over that span.

He was even pulled in a game against the Los Angeles Kings where the team surrendered seven goals.

Since the overtime loss in Boston? Fleury has been a nuclear fallout shelter.

He recently capped off his shutout in Seattle, No. 72 in his Hall of Fame-caliber career. That ranks first all-time among NHL goaltenders. A tremendous honor for Mr. Fleury.

He is top five in the league in GSAA and GSAx. He sits at fourth in the league and second in the Western Conference. The only goalie in the West playing better than Fleury is a neighbor north of the border in Winnipeg.

Fleury’s partner in crime Filip Gustavsson has not been bad either posting positive numbers in both categories as well. He recently stopped 31 of 32 shots in Anaheim for his first win of the season.

Fleury and Gustavsson’s turnaround are also due to the fact that the Wild have been a much better possession and defensive team over the span in which Fleury has gotten it back on track.

The Wild’s overall play along with Fleury’s performance led to the goalie being named ‘third star of the week’ by the NHL.

Since that game in Boston, the Wild have gone from 24th in Corsi percentage and 29th in shots allowed to 16th in Corsi % and ninth in shots allowed. A change from 46% to 50%. That’s negative to not negative work. As for the shots against the boost is 37 shots allowed to 31 shots allowed. Fleury and Gustavsson have not been peppered as much and that speaks to their numbers improving.

With the Wild not being dominated in possession and in shots that has allowed the goalies to settle in and perform admirably.

It’s all well and good that the goalies are playing better but how long can a soon-to-be-38-year-old Fleury and an inexperienced Gustavsson last?

If we look at the recent history of 37 year old goaltenders about to turn 38 we see some interesting trends. There are only nine goalies since 2007 who posted a positive GSAA 4 of those nine seasons are twilight Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller. Boston goalie Tim Thomas and Martin Broduer are also on that list. Goalie legends that Flower belongs with. Fleury’s name is not odd among that list of future legends.

Martin Broduer played 77 games in the year he delivered a positive GSAA for the Devils. Next year? Broduer fell off a cliff. Posting brutal GSAA and GSAx numbers.

Wild coach Dean Evason has expressed his desire to keep the Wild’s goalie situation as a more traditional starter backup situation rather than a 1A/1B type of situation.

Fleury has started eleven of the first 15 contests, while Gustavsson got the nod in four.

If we extrapolate that out to an 82 game schedule we get Fleury starting just over 60 games and Gustavsson getting a little over 21 games.

Is that workload something Fleury can handle?

History suggests that he is capable of producing with a heavy workload but if we look at the last two Vezina trophy winners, One of them being Flower himself, we see that neither starter played over 53 games.

Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers started 52 games and Fleury started 36, splitting with Robin Lehner in Las Vegas.

The stats would suggest that a healthy goalie split is what is best for all parties involved but I’m not the one making the lineup card.

Gustavsson has been solid in net. If the Wild find themselves in a playoff spot or in a position where they think they can make a deep playoff run. Then Fleury will need to be fresh for those games.

-Give the crease to Gustavsson a little bit more, give Flower some off days here and there and have ‘em both ready to roll for the playoffs.

Besides Flowers bloom in the spring don’t they?

Thought I’d end this piece with a little clip of Marc-Andre, Beauty.

A true Minnesotan at heart.