Meet Filip Gustavsson, the Wild goaltender behind Marc-Andre Fleury this season
It’s the first time Gustavsson, 24, has been a part of a goaltending tandem in the NHL, and the Wild need him to hold his own this season.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson can thank his younger brother for launching his career path. Even if neither of them knew it as kids growing up in Sweden.
“Someone had to be goalie when we played street hockey back home,” Gustavsson said. “My younger brother is way more stubborn than I am, so I had to do it.”
Though he wasn’t drawn to the net at first, Gustavsson remembers quickly falling in love with the position, if for no other reason than he could annoy his younger brother by flaunting a save. He switched to goaltender full time by age 12, noting that he enjoyed the fact that he never had to come off the ice.
“You get to play the full 60 minutes,” Gustavsson said. “You’re always the big factor if the team is going to win or if it’s going to lose. I think that was the fun part. You’re one of the most important pieces on the team.”
That statement holds true heading into this season as Gustavsson will be the primary backup to veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. It’s the first time Gustavsson, 24, has been a part of a goaltending tandem in the NHL, and the Wild need him to hold his own this season.
“The coaching staff and everyone expect (a lot) from me,” acknowledged Gustavsson, who the Wild acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators this offseason. “It’s exciting and (nerve wracking) and a little bit of everything.”
The first chance for Gustavsson to get his feet wet came on Tuesday night with the Wild set to take on the rival Colorado Avalanche in a preseason game at Ball Arena in Denver. What was Gustavsson hoping to prove heading into the matchup?
“Just stick to my game and I think everything is going to be fine after that,” he said. “I know my game is good enough.”
To this point in his career, Gustavsson’s stats are pretty pedestrian. He has a 10-13-3 record with a 3.12 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
It’s worth noting, though, that Gustavsson posted those numbers with the Senators struggling mightily over the past couple of seasons. Those struggles clearly started to wear on him over time.
“It felt like (in Ottawa) I could have a real good game and we would still lose,” he said. “Here (in Minnesota), it feels like if I’m going to have a good game, the team is going to win.”
Maybe he feels that way because he played against the Wild last season. Despite being rather overmatched in the game, Gustavsson battled, making 38 saves before none other than all-star winger Kirill Kaprizov netted the game-winner in overtime.
Needless to say, Gustavsson is happy to be Kaprizov’s teammate now. He’s been getting to know his new teammates over the past week and has impressed everyone with his work ethic.
“I’m getting to know him right now,” defenseman Jonas Brodin said. “He looks good out there.”
The biggest thing coach Dean Evason wants to see out of Gustavsson moving forward is a willingness to compete.
“We don’t want him to think, ‘OK. I’m Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup,’ ” Evason said. “We want to compete. We want him to. We want him to take time in the net. No different than any of our other goaltenders or any of our players. We’re going to have two goaltenders. We want both to compete to be in the net every day. Hopefully he can do that.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for Gustavsson. He’s been doing it since his street hockey days back in Sweden.
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