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Wild turn to goaltender Cam Talbot with their season on the line

The past week and a half has been a lesson in patience for Talbot, who had a stellar finish to the regular season, then ceded the net to Marc-Andre Fleury to start the playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn (10) attempts to screen Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot (33) during the second period in Game 6 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le/USA Today Sports
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ST. LOUIS — After riding with veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury through five games of the NHL playoffs, the Wild made a change in net with their season on the line.

While coach Dean Evason would not confirm the move publicly, goaltender Cam Talbot got the nod for Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Enterprise Center.

It became increasingly clear in the hours leading up to puck drop that Talbot would be between the pipes.

Not only was he the first goaltender off the ice in after morning skate — usually a tell-tale sign as to who’s starting the game — alternate captain Marcus Foligno was extremely forthcoming pregame when asked about the potential lineup change.

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“To add Cam into the mix now it doesn’t really change our mindset,” Foligno said ahead of Game 6. “We want to win. We want to win for both our goaltenders. We know Cam is going to be excited to get in there and shut the door.”

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The past week and a half has been a lesson in patience for Talbot, who had a stellar finish to the regular season, then ceded the net to Fleury to start the playoffs.

“I’ll be ready whenever I’m called upon,” Talbot said after his final start of the regular season on April 28. “You don’t know when that’s going to be. Hopefully it’s going to be a long run here and maybe we’ll use both of us. You never really know. That decision is out of my hands. I’m going to continue to work and keep striving to get better and be ready whenever that opportunity arises.”

That opportunity arose with the Wild on the brink of elimination.

Some people believe the Wild should have turned to Talbot to start the series with the Blues. He finished the regular season on a 13-0-3 run, amassing a 2.35 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. On the flip side of that equation, Talbot had a 0-1-2 record against the Blues in the regular season, to go along with a 5.92 goals-against average and .814 save percentage.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev (49) controls the puck from Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) during the second period in Game 6 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Le/USA Today Sports

Meanwhile, Fleury has been up-and-down in the playoffs with 3.04 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. Though he’s not the sole reason the Wild have lost games — far from it, actually — Fleury has been around long enough to know that a change in net can spark a team.

That’s clearly what Evason was trying to do. While he has been careful not to push the proverbial panic button too soon, it was do or die with the Wild on the brink of elimination.

“We trust both our goaltenders,” Evason said earlier this week. “We’ve seen enough of Marc-Andre Fleury to know — and have watched him forever — to know that he’s a guy that responds correctly. We also know that Cam Talbot is the ultimate professional, works his butt off if he’s playing or not playing, and would be ready to go.”

How will Evason determine whether he made the right move?

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“If we win, that’s the right decision,” Evason said. “It’s as simple as that.”

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