Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Boost of Confidence

Darcy Kuemper has come up big for the Wild lately. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP
Earlier in the year, we talked about how Darcy Kuemper needed to be left in the AHL to gain some much needed experience. At the time, Kuemper had been struggling at both the AHL and NHL level. It was just for the better that he stay in the AHL for a while. The Wild even looked at the possibility of signing a third goalie so Kuemper could stay down in Iowa.

Kuemper came in to the November 19th game in a relief appearance of Josh Harding. In just his second appearance of the year, he allowed three goals on nine shots. He was eventually sent down after two sub-par performances.

Here was Kuemper's even strength save percentages in his first two appearances this year:

Oct 15 vs TOR: 75.0%
Nov 19 vs MTL: 71.4%

In his start for Iowa before he was recalled to backup against Montreal, Kuemper made 33 saves on 34 shots in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals. Once he was sent back down, Kumper rode that hot performance and has really yet to look back.

From his November 15 start through his final appearance (December 20th) for Iowa, Kuemper did not post a save percentage below .917. In fact, there were only two starts where he posted a save percentage below .930 including a shutout in his final start on December 20th.

On January 2nd, the Wild recalled the red hot Darcy Kuemper. He backed up Niklas Backstrom for two games before being put in the net for the January 7th game against Los Angeles. He has yet to look back since taking over in net, and has now earned the respect of Mike Yeo to the point where Yeo is willing to have three goalies on the roster if Kuemper continues his hot streak.

Here are the even strength save percentages for Kuemper since being recalled on January 2nd:

Jan 7 vs LA: 96.7%
Jan 12 vs NSH: 100%
Jan 14 vs OTT: 96.0%
Jan 16 vs EDM: 94.4%
Jan 18 vs DAL: 96.4%

In those five starts, the Wild are 4-1-0. In just about every single one of those starts, you could have easily made a case for Kuemper being the Wild's player of the game. With the Wild being badly outplayed in most of these games, Kuemper has been the sole reason they won four out of those five games.

And all it took was a boost of confidence. Pretty incredible what a goalie can do when the puck looks like a beach ball to them.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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