Sunday, February 8, 2015

Is Devan Dubnyk the answer to the Minnesota Wild’s goaltending situation?

**Update**

Devan Dubnyk was named first star of the week by the NHL after shutting out both Chicago 3-0 last Tuesday night and Colorado 1-0 on Saturday night. Last week, he was named the third star of the week by the league for going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .967 save percentage when the Wild had a 3-0 successful road trip through western Canada right after the all-star break (nhl.com).



On January 14, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher pulled the trigger and traded the Wild’s 2015 third round draft pick to Arizona for goaltender Devan Dubnyk in order to attempt to do address the Wild’s goaltending situation. Dubnyk, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, had been the back up to Mike Smith.  

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk
Since then, Dubnyk “now as four shutouts in nine starts with the Wild and has allowed three goals in five games since the All-Star break. In nine starts, he is 7-1 (one no-decision in Detroit) with a 1.31 GAA and .948 save percentage. Per Elias, Dubnyk is the fasted to post four shutouts with a team among goalies…” (Josh Cooper, sports.yahoo.com 2/8/2015). He has also started all nine of those games.

Not bad for a goalie who has been with four different teams in the past two seasons (Edmonton, Nashville, Montreal/Hamilton (AHL), and Arizona) before coming to Minnesota.
Ever since Dubnyk has joined the team, the Wild have been playing with a renewed confidence.

Mikko Koivu made this statement after Saturday night’s win over Colorado, “Everything starts with goaltending…Winning teams have that and he’s been great ever since he came here.” (Chad Graff, twincities.com).

Before Dubnyk’s arrival, the Wild had seemed to find ways to lose games where they had the advantage on the shots on goal, with shaky goaltending to partly to blame. Chad Graff stated in his article today  On Jan. 8, for example, the Wild lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks despite outshooting them 44-20.” 

We all know what has happened since. 

The Wild are definitely going to ride this out, with certain that Dubnyk is going to be carrying the starting role. Niklas Backstrom hasn’t played since January 13 at Pittsburgh, were he gave up six goals. Darcy Kuemper is scheduled to rejoin the Wild on Monday from his rehab stint in Iowa (and supposedly is the starter for Tuesday night’s game in Winnipeg).

Kuemper didn’t have that great of a stint in Iowa, where he went 2-3 with a 3.22 GAA and .891 save percentage.

Now, what do the Wild do with Kuemper and Backstrom? That’s going to be an interesting situation with three goaltenders. Does Yeo alternate using Kuemper and Backstrom as the back up? Does Backstrom get continuously scratched? (Backstrom will be 37 this month and has one year left on his contract with the Wild). Backstrom has a record of 5-7-3, 3.04 GAA, and .887 save percentage this season. (He is the Wild's winningest goalie with 194 wins and 28 shutouts in nine seasons with the team). 

Can Backstrom be sent down to Iowa for a conditioning stint? That could possibly happen. Could Fletcher look at possibly moving Backstrom before the trade deadline? That is unknown at this point. Backstrom has a no-move clause (which the Wild would have to get him to waive at this point) and still has one year remaining on his current contract. (There is also the possibility that the Wild could look at buying out his contract after this season). 

Josh Harding is not an option at all at this point due to on going issues with his Multiple Sclerosis (he hasn't played since November 29 and there hasn't been much of any update since then). He is currently in the last season of his current contract with the Wild. 

It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. 

In other news, the Minnesota Wild shut out the Colorado Avalanche for the third time this season on Saturday night. This is the first time this season where a team has shut out an opponent in three consecutive meetings (The Wild opened the season with a home-and home against the Avs and won both games 5-0 and 3-0). This is not the first time that this has happened to the Avalanche. In the 2007-08 season, they were shut out in consecutive games against Detroit three times. 




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