By Scott Taylor
Photos by James Carey Lauder
Dubnyk Stumbles at Bad Time
WINNIPEG, Man. – Devan Dubnyk needs a rest.
After watching the Minnesota Wild goaltender flail around in a 5-4 loss to the non-post-season Winnipeg Jets on Sunday afternoon, it has become painfully obvious that the man who got the Minnesota Wild to where they are today, needs to sit and just watch his team for a few games.
The slumping Minnesota Wild have now lost five straight and have won just two of 10 in March.
When we last visited the Wild, Dubnyk was unbeatable. He was the odds-on pick to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding goaltender and his numbers were off the hook. In fact, during his first 27 starts, a run that took him to Dec. 31, Dubnyk was an eye-popping 18-6-3. He was first in the NHL with a 1.58 goals-against average and also first in the league with a .947 save percentage.
It certainly hasn’t been as good since then, and it’s been downright awful in the month of March – a time when the Wild needed their No. 1 goaltender to be at his best in order to catch the Chicago Blackhawks in the race for first in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.
In 29 starts since the end of December, Dubnyk is 18-12 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. That’s not very good. In fact, during that span, the NHL’s statistical gurus place Dubnyk 22nd in goals-against average and 26th in save percentage (among those goalies who have played at least 16 games in that period of time). Worse yet, as he did on Sunday, Dubnyk has allowed four or more goals in a game nine times.
This month he is 2-7 in 10 games with a 2.92 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. That’s horrible. He has gone seven starts without a victory and has been looking for his career-high 37th win for the last five games.
Now, to be fair, Dubnyk is still tied for second in the NHL with 36 wins, second with a .927 save percentage and fourth with a 2.18 goals against average (among goaltenders with at least 30 games played), but his numbers have dropped dramatically since Dec. 29.
There have been some suggestions that he needs more practice time or that he’s developed some bad habits and the coaches need to work on getting Dubnyk back to the pre-New Year’s Dubnyk.
However, after watching him on Sunday, the guy looks worn out and unable to focus. Especially early in the game. The Jets led 3-0 after the first period, even though the Wild had outshot them 14-7. Overall, the Wild outshot the Jets 48-21 and yet they lost 5-4. Dubnyk never seemed comfortable at any stage of this one and maybe, just maybe he should take his family to Disney World for a week. He’s not going to get any better – his confidence certainly isn’t going to get any better – by letting in five or six more against San Jose on Tuesday night.
It’s a coach’s job to make sure every team member feels horribly about a loss like the one the Wild suffered on Sunday. He can’t just leave it at the foot of goaltender. But let’s not sugarcoat this thing. With decent goaltending, the Wild don’t lose in Winnipeg and don’t go 2-8 this month.
As for head coach Bruce Boudreau, he’s as frustrated as the team and the fans – fans who are having trouble imagining a club that was so good for so long suddenly hitting the skids right before the post-season.
“Hey, listen, we stunk in the first,” Boudreau said during a postgame scrum in the bowels of MTS Centre that barely lasted 30 seconds. “We’d better come back in the second. Holy crap, it’s not resiliency. You’re making us sound like we’re good. That’s … I’m done.”
If he can’t get his goaltender back on track, his entire team might be.