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.