A little over a year ago, I wrote about Devan Dubnyk’s workload and the correlation between games played and save percentage. The bottomline was that among the top twenty goaltenders in the NHL, the number of games played didn’t correlate to performance at all. There was, however, a positive correlation for the rest of the goaltenders in the NHL and the amount of games they played, meaning a higher number of games saw a higher save percentage. The average number of games for a Top 20 netminder like Dubnyk was 53.28 games per season. Anyone paying attention the past few seasons can tell you that the Doob plays a lot more than that. Last season, he played 65 games. In the 2015-16 season, he played in 67 games. His first season with the Wild, the result of a mid-season trade with the Arizona Coyotes had him starting through the end of the season, a streak of 38 games.
Dubnyk hasn’t been shy about enjoying the above average workload. Prior to last season, it could be argued that it did leave him burnt out for the playoffs, but against the St. Louis Blues, he posted a .925 save percentage despite the Wild dropping the series in five games. However, it still would be beneficial for the Wild to reduce Dubnyk’s number of games played. It just isn’t for his sake (at least not primarily).
Alex Stalock has replaced Darcy Keumper as the Wild’s backup goaltender. Although it is early into the season still, all signs point to Stalock being very effective in that role. He has given the Wild a chance to win in every game he’s started and the team appears to play with confidence in front of him (even if they haven’t always provided him with the goal support he deserves). Remember the brief mention above of the positive correlation between games played and save percentage for the goalies outside the Top 20? That group includes backup netminders. There’s reason to believe that giving Stalock more games will allow him to stay sharp and boost his performance to at least a small degree.
This is not to suggest that the Wild should run a goalie tandem. Dubnyk is a top five goalie in the NHL and the Wild would be foolish to not rely on him. But they can keep him healthy and mentally engaged while also giving their backup goalie a chance to stay sharp and prepared in any worst case scenarios by shaving down Dubnyk’s number of games played by 5-10 games. This would still see Dubnyk play slightly more games than the average Top 20 goalie while giving Stalock around 22 - 27 starts.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have amply demonstrated how critical a solid #2 goaltender is to any serious playoff dreams. The Wild have been fortunate to have an iron man in the net for the past two and a half seasons. However, if they want to maximize their playoff hopes, then they should do whatever they can to boost the performance of Stalock as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of Dunbyk’s game. Giving Stalock a few more starts should do just that.
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