The Good Dubnyk giveth; the Bad Dubnyk taketh away.
Or maybe that should be reversed. I'm not sure.
Wild fans have seen the many faces of Devan Dubnyk over the past two nights, with a puzzling -- albeit, not terrible -- performance in Toronto on Wednesday, where he was beset by some fluky goals, and Thursday night in Montreal, where he stopped everything that came his way (sort of) en route to a 41-save shutout.
This has been the story on Dubnyk, who has turned in inconsistent results across the board in his almost three seasons here. Dubnyk arrived with hellfire and brimstone, tearing up the league in early 2015, only to get off to a slow start the following season, catch fire at midseason, then quickly burn out in early 2016. Last season looked like the consistency had finally set in, with Vezina-leading numbers through the trade deadline, only to spectacularly explode in March.
Quality starts is a stat that measures a goaltender having a 'good' night and giving his team a chance to win, much like a pitcher in baseball. If your save percentage for the night is over the league average, or over .885 if you faced 20 or fewer shots, you've had a quality start. While Dubnyk has been mostly solid during his time here in save percentage and goals-against average among qualifying NHL goalies, his quality starts haven't been great.
2014-15: 6th in SV%, 5th in GAA, 7th in QS
2015-16: 27th in SV%, 19th in GAA, 41st in QS
2016-17: 9th in SV%, 10th in GAA, 11th in QS
2017-18: 30th in SV%, 26th in GAA, 38th in QS
In his good and his rough years, Dubnyk's worst stat of the bunch is always quality starts, which just speaks to his relative inconsistency. This isn't an indictment of his talent or his overall game, it's just pointing out that when Dubnyk is bad, he's pretty bad. Conversely, when Dubnyk is good, he's obviously very good. It wouldn't be possible to cancel out all of the non-quality starts he has, and still end up among the league leaders in several categories, unless the quality starts he had were as impressive as his poor starts are awful.
Beyond the start-to-start inconsistencies, Dubnyk also fluctuates from month-to-month as well. This makes sense if you think about it, since if he's scuffling, it can tend to not be something that is rectified right away, and when he's playing well, he's on a hot streak and can usually sustain it for a period of time. Here's Dubnyk's save percentage every month since joining the Wild
Jan. '15: .933
Feb. '15: .939
March '15: .942
April '15: .915
Oct. '15: .898
Nov. '15: .918
Dec. '15: .942
Jan. '16: .930
Feb. '16: .900
March '16: .927
April '16: .886
Oct. '16: .952
Nov. '16: .942
Dec. '16: .934
Jan. '17: .917
Feb. '17: .917
March '17: .889
April '17: .916
Oct. '17: .905
As with his individual games sinking and saving the Wild, Dubnyk's monthly stretches do roughly the same thing on a bigger scale, as you can infer from knowing the ebb and flow of the past three Wild seasons. While it's easy to be frustrated with the downs, the ups are a time of plentiful harvest for the Wild, and that needs to be considered as well.
As far as diagnosing it goes, Wes Walz touched on it briefly on FSN's postgame coverage, but Dubnyk's ability to control rebounds comes and goes with his sharpness. When Dubnyk is on, he's directing rebounds or smothering them like a pro, and he's in control of his body if the second shot comes in. When he's off, he's making the first save 'at all costs' and the rebound goes wherever it goes, without Dubnyk's control. He ends up sprawling a lot more and it gets him caught out of position for the second shot. While this is true of many goalies, it seems to affect Dubnyk more. Since his giant frame helps his reflexes play up, he's rarely missing pucks all together, but rather getting beat on positioning.
So what's to make of this? The anger around Dubnyk's rough starts, and especially his month-to-month consistency, is understandable. It's probably fair to say that he is given fair credit when he has good starts and good months as well. But at this point, it just seems to be who Dubnyk is as a goalie. Even his seasons seem a little inconsistent, and there could be any number of reasons for that.
Wild fans may have been conditioned by the always consistent but not necessarily spectacular play of Niklas Backstrom for many years, but that didn't lead to much sustained success either, mostly because of the team in front of him. Dubnyk is the anti-Backstrom, but it seems to me that his inconsistencies don't carry a particular pattern, which actually may give Wild fans a little hope. If Dubnyk can somehow manage one of his incredible month-long stretches during, say, mid-April to mid-May, that changes Dubnyk's contribution to the Wild significantly. Now this may be wishful thinking and there's certainly nothing pointing to that happening, but it reminds me of a certain movie clip.
Dubnyk's inconsistencies are more likely to be frustrating than they are likely to turn him into a playoff hero, but it's nice for Wild fans to think that maybe the pendulum could swing the other way just once.
It's also possible Dubnyk finds some consistency late in his career. NHL goalies have been known to be late bloomers at times, and even Dubnyk himself has come a long way since his forgettable 2013-14 with three teams. Under the tutelage of goaltending guru Sean Burke, Dubnyk turned his career around in Phoenix, so perhaps something else is left to be unlocked with him. Until then, the yearly rollercoaster ride is just going to be the reality of Dubnyk as the Wild's starting goaltender, and Wild fans will just have to live with the downs, but hopefully remember to enjoy the ups.