Over the past year or so, Devan Dubnyk has continued to keep the Minnesota Wild competitive, regardless of whether they’replaying beyond the sum of their parts or not.
For the Minnesota Wild, it’s hard not to view Devan Dubnyk as anything but a key part of their team, with the goaltender overseeing a 6th best in the league total wins last year, with 35.
Sitting above him; the likes of Pekka Rinne, who sits behind arguably the best defensive corps in the league and Andrei Vasilevsky, whose Tampa Bay Lightning team were utterly dominant in the regular season last year.
Even this year so far, Dubnyk finds his name among the top three with Frederik Anderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs sitting top of the list more so because of the offensive riches in Toronto covering up any defensive frailty.
Devan Dubnyk is facing shot counts against at the rate of basement-dwelling goaltenders like Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators and Henrik Ludqvist of a rebuilding New York Rangers side.
In fact, in facing 505 shots against already this season, Dubnyk ranks 4th in terms of the shots hitting him. Statistically, there’s every chance this evens out – last year he saw a total of 1,769 shots ranking the count 11th in the league by season’s end.
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The Minnesota Wild defense hasn’t undergone such dramatic changes that the statistics can’t correct themselves over time. After all, Devan Dubnyk has only played 16 games this season, thus the sample size is a bit skewed.
Playing 60 regular season games last season, he wasn’t the busiest goaltender in the league, but it is telling that of the Stanley Cup finalists, Marc-Andre Fleury in the Vegas Golden Knights has a very low 46 games (albeit some time was lost through injury) and Braden Holtby of the eventual winners played 54 games.
If early indicators this season are anything to go by, Devan Dubnyk will get a break for one in every five Minnesota Wild games. That means his workload isn’t going to be much lighter this year.
The Minnesota will be needing more performances like both games against the St. Louis Blues this year from Dubnyk and less like that against Washington or Buffalo recently.
In the most recent games, he’s struggled firstly against the Capitals with a save percentage of 0.848% and then to the tune of 0.897% against Buffalo.
Comparing to the games with the Blues this year, Devan rocked a 0.938% in the 5-1 rout and a 0.935% in the much tighter 3-2 win.
Of course, as a goaltender, you’re looking both to your defense and to some active back-checking from your forward lines to prevent shots on net and of course, you’re hoping for the odd few lucky bounces, but dismal save percentages can’t happen, even when the guys in front of you aren’t performing.
Too often this year, the over-reliance of Devan Dubnyk may have impacted his performance; he is trending for a strong year – his year-on-year form typically points to a big year followed by a slightly weaker one.
By weaker, we’re talking a league average 0.918% save percentage and 2.52 goals against average, as opposed to a bug year like this one where those numbers sit at 0.925% and 2.36 GAA. The difference is miniscule but enough to win or lose a game for the Minnesota Wild.
Fact is, though, that Devan Dubnyk is only human and can’t be solely responsible for a win or loss.
The Minnesota Wild need to ensure not only that they’re backing him up but that they’re creating enough confidence in the group to allow backup goalie, Alex Stalock to step up on a few more occasions.
If that happens, I’d be quite happy come play-off time if the fate of the Wild does rest squarely on Dubnyk. He’s proven himself in the top tier of goaltenders in the league, so why not let him shine in the play-offs.
First though, to get there!
Stats courtesy of nhl.com/stats.