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  • Dubnyk Dismantles December Diagnoses


    I'm as surprised as you are.

    The Wild's playoff odds at the All-Star Break sat at just over 6%, according to Sports Club Statistics. In just two weeks, they've leapt all the way from 6% to 36%, with the possibility of ending the day at 42% if the Wild win tonight against Vancouver.

    So, it would seem that starting Dubnyk in net is the catalyst for the Wild's return to form, no? Well, let's not bust out our Jump to Conclusions mat just yet. Let's look at some of the popular theories at the time of the Wild's big slump, and see if any of them were likely reasons for the Wild's demise.

    The Defense Was Bad

    "This can't be entirely Kuemper and Backstrom's fault, right?" was the prevailing thought among those in this camp. And while it's totally true that those two were at times left hung out to dry by their defense, and hockey is definitely a team effort, it's notable that, by any measure except for "Goals Allowed", it wasn't entirely fair to pin the blame on the Wild's defense. Through the end of November, the Wild gave up shots with less frequency than any team in the NHL, allowing 25.5 shots per 60 minutes. From December 1st through January 13th- the Wild's last game before Dubnyk (a.k.a., 1 B.D.), that number jumps to 28.6, a notable leap, but a mark that still kept the Wild in the top half of the NHL.

    And lest you think the Wild forgot how to play defense, the Wild have been 3rd in the NHL in suppressing shots since the Dubnyk trade (25.9 Shots Against/60).

    That Damned Power Play

    Here's the Wild's Power Play Percentages in specific periods, and their accompanying record:

    Oct-Nov 2014: PP%: 9.6; Record: 13-9-1

    Dec 2014 - Jan 13th, 2015: PP%: 19.6; Record: 5-10-4

    Jan, 15th 2015 - Now: PP%: 24.1; Record: 7-1-1

    The Wild's recent 5-Game Winning Streak: PP%: 9.1; Record: 5-0-0

    I'm neither saying that the Wild's 26th-ranked Power Play isn't a problem in general, or that a bad power play is essential to the Wild winning. It's just that, in this case, co-relation doesn't equal causation. The Wild's worst stretch of the season saw the Wild with Power Play success. You can pin some losses from early in the season on the inept PP, but the December swoon had other issues.

    The Wild Lacked Chemistry

    The Wild Were Too Soft and Weren't Trying

    Any claim of the Wild being "soft as a featherbed", or in need of a psychologist to treat "Post-Traumatic Stanchion Disorder", or being in seriously in need of a change of approach to their chosen profession is overly simplistic and infantile.

    How can I tell this? There's been one game since Dubnyk's arrival where he gave the Wild no chance to win. Against Detroit, he let in 4 goals on 10 shots. Down 4-1 after two, one would expect to see a "mentally squishy" team pack it in, and play for tomorrow.

    "Occam's Razor" is the theory that when solving a problem, it's best to begin by searching for and testing the simplest answer. What was wrong with the Wild? They were giving up too many goals. Was it the defense's fault? Probably not- they were still suppressing their opponent's shots. Simplest conclusion to draw? The goaltenders were the issue.

    Since the Wild have been able to have a goaltender they could trust, the Wild's style of play has opened up, and we're seeing a return to their early-season form. Their defense, all of a sudden, looks solid again. The team looks like it has chemistry, and the aggressive style of play makes the Wild's effort more noticeable. Judging by the "eye test" and the stats, goaltending was very clearly what sent the Wild into their slump.

    Now, obviously Dubnyk isn't going to have a .948 Sv% for the rest of the season, there's going to be times where he looks human, and the Wild will have to pick up his slack. That's a given.

    What should give you hope is that, with a good goaltender behind them, the players in front of the net look more than capable of picking up the Wild in the instances where Dubnyk falters.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

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