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In praise of Darcy Kuemper

Jan 28, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild Getty Images

Let’s start this off with a stat. The Minnesota Wild are 4-2-1 in the seven games 23-year-old goalie Darcy Kuemper has started in January. In those seven games, the Wild have been outshot by a combined margin of 253 to 178.

Actually, we could probably just end the post right there. If that doesn’t tell you how important Kuemper has been while Josh Harding has been forced out of the lineup, we’re not sure what will.

Kuemper (.941 save percentage this month) will be between the pipes once again tonight when Minnesota takes on the Ducks in Anaheim.

The way the Wild have been dominated in puck possession since basically the beginning of December, it’s been paramount they get good goaltending.

To illustrate, take this chart from Extra Skater:


Remembering the basic rule that up is good and down is bad, you can see how the Wild have struggled in the past couple of months. The major difference between January, when they’ve gone 8-3-1 and reclaimed a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and December, when they went 5-9-5 and there was all sorts of talk about coach Mike Yeo being on the hot seat, is goaltending.

Well, that and making the most of limited scoring chances, the most famous example of that coming on Jan. 4 when the Wild scored five times on 11 shots in a 5-3 victory over the Caps.

Those two factors are reflected in a stat called PDO, which combines shooting percentage and save percentage:


As you can see, the Wild’s PDO has skyrocketed in January. While that’s often considered a sign of a team that’s winning games it may not deserve to, goaltenders are part of the team, and right now Kuemper is a huge part of the Wild.

  1. jkaflagg - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    Saw Kuemper a few years ago with Ontario of the ECHL, where the Wild loaned him out due to a “logjam” of goalies in the AHL….He was clearly a dominant player at that level and the Wild moved him back up to the AHL fairly quickly…Glad to see he’s earned a full shot in Minnesota.

  2. dumptrucked - Jan 28, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    He has been a mess in his appearances last year and earlier this year. I give hike credit for playing well of late but we need to see this for a much more extended period before we praise him. Also, the fact he is playing so much is less about him and more about the staffs total lack of confidence in backstrom. I expect a new starter in net next year with Kuemper on the bench.

    • nolockoutpricks - Jan 28, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      if you knew anything about the wild you would know that backstrom has had a abdominal strain for the last month. thats why he hasnt been playing, has nothing to do with confidence from the staff. if your going to talk like you know something about the situation make sure you do

    • cmmorgan32 - Jan 28, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      If you were coach who do you put in net? The injured goalie or the healthy goalie who has put together a string of decent performances lately? Last time I checked, the hot goalie tends to win out. That’s the same exact reason why Harding continued to play after Backstrom returned from his knee injury in the fall.

      Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s highly unlikely that Kuemper will be getting an NHL spot with the Wild next season. The trade market for Backstrom and/or Harding is likely non-existent (currently) and I find it very hard to believe that management would buy out both contracts. Regardless, it’s good to know that Minnesota has a solid #3 goalie since they desperately need that as long as Harding’s MS keeps him out of the lineup for extended periods of time.

  3. jaythehelmetguy - Jan 28, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Glad he’s been stepping up. Backstrom has been doing well too as of late. We’ve got three good goalies and Kuemper has really been a valuable asset to the Wild. He really stunk it up when we started him against Toronto earlier this season and I don’t know what it is, but somewhere along the line he just got good. The guy was 31 seconds away from shutting out Chicago! Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull a DiPietro and do a complete 180.

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