The Minnesota Wild’s No. 1 netminder, Devan Dubnyk, makes his case game after game as to why he’ll go down as one of the greatest acquisitions in franchise history. He’s already shown it early in this young season, and Tuesday he’s set to face his old team, Arizona, at Xcel Energy Center.
Every time the Wild and Coyotes face each other, it’s pretty logical to think back on Dubnyk’s time with Minnesota.
Goaltending hasn’t been much of an issue for the Wild, other than maybe a few soft goals or off nights here and there, ever since Jan. 15, 2015 when the Wild acquired Dubnyk. He most definitely wasn’t a superstar in his career before he arrived in the state of hockey.
Since then though, the now-32-year-old has suited up for 235 games, going 135-71-22 with a 2.27 GAA and .923 save percentage with 20 shutouts. In that timeframe since his first game with the Wild, he also tops the charts among NHL goaltenders with a least 150 games played in games and shutouts. He’s also second in wins and GAA.
Last week, the focus here was on the lack of offense for the Wild in just a couple of games while Dubnyk was doing all he could to help the team win from his position in between the pipes.
That theme still rings true this week.
After all, the Wild have yet to win a game in regulation with their 1-2-2 record following a better-effort-yet-still-not-good-enough-to-win 4-2 loss in Nashville.
In the 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina over the weekend, Dubnyk tied a career-high with 52 saves.
The last time he stopped that many pucks? Back on April 10, 2010, in Los Angeles when he faced 55 total shots.
With the five goals allowed to the Hurricanes on Saturday, the Wild set a franchise record with 57 shots against. It’s not exactly the record a team wants to break, obviously. It also broke a record set nearly 17 years ago, when the Wild allowed 56 shots to Boston on Nov. 8, 2001; Dwayne Roloson made 53 saves in that game.
Dubnyk and Roloson are the only goaltenders in Wild history to make 50 or more saves in a single game, and the feat has only been done three times in franchise history. Roloson also made 52 saves Oct. 28, 2005 at Columbus.
It is not too far out of the question to point to Dubnyk as the reason that Wild didn’t start 0-4-0.
The team’s only victory with him in the net came on a comeback and then the overtime winner from Jason Zucker against Chicago. For the rest of the roster outside of the goal crease, the slow starts and incomplete games have been the concern. They haven’t had to worry about goaltending.
With four games under his belt, Dubnyk holds a 2.64 GAA and a .934 save percentage, which are better marks than the league averages of 2.92 GAA and .907 save percentage.
He’s made 156 saves out of the 167 shots he’s faced, and he ranks fourth in the league in shots against. However, leaders Craig Anderson (Ottawa) with 199 shots against, John Gibson (Anaheim) with 178 and Cam Ward (Chicago) with 173 all have five games played rather than Dubnyk’s four. Dubnyk also ranks third in the league in saves with 168 of them. Anderson (184 saves) and Gibson (168 saves) are just ahead of him.
Dubnyk did not get the start in Monday’s game against the Predators, with it being the team’s first back-to-back set of the season. Backup goalie Alex Stalock got the nod and was sharp early when he needed to be, especially on an early Predators power play where they registered their first six shots of the game.
The Predators struck first with a power-play goal six minutes into the game, but Matt Dumba responded by pouncing on a loose puck in the slot and firing an absolute laser past Pekka Rinne to tie the game 1-1 on the power-play. A miscommunication on a passing attempt from Eric Staal to Jordan Greenway led to a costly turnover and a breakaway for Mattias Ekholm. He didn’t miss his chance in alone against Stalock and made it a 3-1 Predators lead in the middle of the second.
Mikko Koivu scored his first goal of the season a few minutes later, but that was as close as the Wild got after the Predators capitalized with an empty-netter with 11 seconds left in the game.
So yes, Dubnyk will return to his post on the second night of the back-to-back when the Wild returns home to face the Coyotes. Last season, Dubnyk went 1-0-1 with a 2.42 GAA and .930 save percentage in two starts against the Coyotes. Overall, he’s 6-6-4 with a 2.83 GAA and .909 save percentage in 17 games and 16 starts against his former team.
If the first five games of the 2018-19 campaign are indicators, Dubnyk will need to continue to be on his best game night in and night out to try and balance out what have been inconsistent efforts from the rest of the squad. The Wild will not only look to get a win in regulation for the first time this season, they also have a 12-game point streak on the line against Arizona.
They’re 9-0-3 against them starting in January 2014.
Joel Eriksson Ek is sidelined with a lower-body injury he seemed to sustain during the team’s lone victory over Chicago last week. He played on a line with Staal and Zucker for much of that game.
Defenseman Ryan Suter is approaching a couple milestones: 500 career points in 1,000 career NHL games.
Zucker leads the team in goals this season with three of them; his third, which he scored against Carolina, marked No. 100 in his career. Dumba is the only other Wild play with more than one goal.
Zach Parise leads the team in assists (six) and points (seven) so far this season.
Nino Niederreiter, Greenway and Marcus Foligno are a few notable Wild players still searching for their first goals of the season. Foligno and defenseman Jonas Brodin each have yet to record a point.
The Wild went 13-13-4 in 15 back-to-back sets last season, going 8-6-1 in game one and 5-7-3 in game two. The Wild also have 15 back-to-backs this season.