Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk relieved to put ‘really weird stretch’ behind him
CALGARY, Alberta — The razzing started on the ice, continued down the runway to the visitor’s dressing room at the Scotiabank Saddledome and spilled into the open as Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise peeled off their sweaty equipment.
Some disputed transaction Parise executed in the fantasy football league of which Dubnyk is the commissioner became the proverbial battle for the last word.
My, how winning takes the edge off.
After moping about their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Wild flipped the script Tuesday night with a 3-2 victory at Vancouver, and Dubnyk validated his role as Minnesota’s No. 1 goaltender.
Dubnyk stopped all 14 shots he saw in the third period as the Canucks pushed hard for the tying goal. It was his sharpest period in about two weeks. Dubnyk had lost four straight games, a stretch that included: an illness that sidelined him for one match; being lifted in the third period of a 6-4 victory over Ottawa; and allowing four goals on 14 shots in a loss to Arizona.
The wolf is always at the door for NHL goaltenders, whose ability to see and react to pucks cleanly — and maintain a certain degree of swagger — can single-handedly dictate his team’s success and demeanor.
Dubnyk did not steal the win over the Canucks; he simply made the saves he needed to make, flushing his previous starts in the process.
“It gets harder,” Dubnyk conceded Wednesday after practice. “I’m not going to tell you I wasn’t bothered with this stretch, when pucks are going in every which way and you’re feeling crappy. So, it becomes more of a challenge to focus on the little things and trust the process.”
Dubnyk uses a mental checklist to ground him in the crease: Feet set, not drifting around the net; not straying too far; chest square but not slumped; staying ahead of developing plays; and always follow the puck, even when it’s buried along the boards.
“Just little things and having a nice pace to my game, so I can feel in control,” he said. “If there’s a pass across the net, I don’t fly over there 100 mph if it doesn’t call for it. Having a nice pace when you get comfortable with those things that you need to do (and) trust that it’s going to allow you to have success.
“I know we’ve got a great team here. If you keep doing it enough, you know the score’s going to turn out the right way.”
In his first 13 starts, Dubnyk posted an 8-3-2 record with a 2.13 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Then the Wild lost six of nine, including their most recent three-game skid, Dubnyk was 1-5 with a 3.84 GAA and .856 save percentage.
“It’s just been a really weird stretch, not seeing a lot of shots, pucks finding their way in,” he said. “You have to try harder and harder each game not to let it affect what you’re doing and make you squeeze the stick.”
It was an inauspicious start for Dubnyk and his teammates against the Canucks, who scored 7:09 into the game when Josh Leivo’s blocker-side snipe put the Wild in an early hole.
Tyler Motte’s goal midway through the second period regained the lead for Vancouver, but the Wild went to work on the power play, scoring all three of their goals with the man advantage. It was all Dubnyk needed to hold down the fort in the third.
“Duby made some key saves at the right time,” said center Eric Staal. “Confidence is a big thing for everybody, and for him a couple of those key saves were nice tonight. It gives you an extra jump.”
Dubnyk, 32, has played 443 games in the NHL. He is a former first-round pick who was shunned by Edmonton, Nashville and Arizona before the Wild rescued him in January 2015, and he, turn, rescued the Wild that season.
Since the fateful trade with the Coyotes, Dubnyk ranks second in the NHL in wins and is tied for second in goals-against average and save percentage.
He knows how to climb out of funks because he’s experienced a few of them.
“Being a goalie is a reactive position,” he said. “You can’t go out there and win a hockey game. I can’t go out there and say, ‘I need to win this one for the guys.’ You’ve just got to go out there, be prepared to be your best at whatever scenario’s thrown at you, whether it’s making 50 saves or just 10.”
Author: Brian Murphy