Monday, March 23, 2015

Devan Dubnyk worthy of Hart Trophy consideration?

When Devan Dubnyk was acquired by the Wild from Arizona, the Wild had a six game losing streak and were in 12th place in the Western Conference standings when Wild GM Chuck Fletcher bit the bullet and made the trade. At the time, the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper were a big part of the reason why the Wild were sitting eight points of a playoff spot. Acquiring Dubnyk seemed like an act of desperation.

Minnesota Wild Goaltender Devan Dubnyk
Well, things have obviously changed in the past two months. Since Devan Dubnyk joined the Wild back in January, he is 23-6-1, with a 1.74 GAA, a .937 SV%, has 5 shutouts, and has allowed 2 or less goals in 23 of 31 games he has played. He also made his 31st consecutive start of the season against Toronto. The Wild are currently sitting in 7th place in the Western Conference standings (the top Wild Card spot), and are five points behind Chicago in the Central Division.

I stated in a previous post "Is Devan Dubnyk the answer to the Minnesota Wild's goaltending situation" (Feb. 8, article is here), that "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." If either (Darcy) Kuemper or (Niklas) Backstrom had started in the net for the game in Saint Louis, where the Wild won 3-1, I'd say the Wild would have easily lost that game. 

Judd Zulgad (from 1500 ESPN Twin Cities SportsWire) wrote this in an article posted after last Tuesday's overtime win in Nashville:

"The Wild's turnaround goes beyond Dubnyk, but without him, it doesn't happen. Everything changed when Dubnyk arrived. He began making both easy and tough saves that Kuemper and Backstrom failed to make and Wild players started to play as if they thought they had a chance to win games." 

Now, Dubnyk's name has been brought up for consideration for the Vezina and Hart Trophy nominations. 

Zulgad went on to write:

"Dubnyk's candidacy for the Hart Trophy is based around what I call the 'It's a Wonderful Life' theory. The Wild was given an opportunity to see what life is like without competent goaltending and now they are seeing what life is like with a guy putting up all-star numbers." 

Remember, Dubnyk was named the NHL's first star for the month of February. Since the NHL trade deadline, the statement can be (and probably has been) made that no trade has been more valuable to a team this season than Dubnyk's trade to the Wild. Not bad for a goalie who has bounced around from Edmonton to Nashville, and Montreal last season, started the season in Arizona as a back up, and now has basically won the starting goalie job here in Minnesota. Considering how crucial Dubnyk has been to the Wild's turn-around right now, he is the most valuable to this Minnesota Wild team. 

It would be a real shame if Devan Dubnyk isn't nominated for the Hart Trophy. 

With Dubnyk in net, the Minnesota Wild have been the NHL's hottest team
 since the All-Star Break

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