To say it has been an awful start to the season for the Minnesota Wild would be an understatement. It has been next-level bad for a team that was still getting playoff edicts from their owner Craig Leipold before the season started.
A big part of the problem — and believe me, there are many — has been the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has not done his team any favors with his play to begin the year either. Prior to Thursday night’s game in Montreal which Dubnyk isn’t even slated to start, the 33-year-old goaltender is 0-5-0 with an .867 save percentage. To make it worse, his save percentage at 5-on-5 so far in those five games is .886, well below league average.
Getting off to hot starts has not always been Dubnyk’s thing in his career. Yes, he has had some good Octobers in Minnesota, but he has also had some rough ones which were also prevalent during his time in Edmonton. But in the wake of last season’s disappointing performance, Dubnyk needed to get off to a good start to disprove the notion that he might be on the downswing of his career.
He has not gotten off to a good start, and you probably should sound the alarms now, because the pucks going by him have been rather pedestrian shots.
A lot of goals have come right out front of Dubnyk, which is more on his defense in front of him. But it is the goals that are coming out from a distance that signals the alarm in his game so far. As you can see in the shot chart, there are quite a few coming from the faceoff circle to his right. Some via the power play or odd man rushes, so there is not much he can do there, but there are some others where he really isn’t helping his or the team’s cause.
That last one from Toronto’s John Tavares on Tuesday night came outside the faceoff circle. Plain and simple, you have to stop that. Especially with your team holding a 1-0 lead after having a decent first period in desperate search of a second straight win.
Dubnyk has also shown sloppy rebound control, as emphasized in the Blandisi goal above, as pucks are just getting redirected out into the slot or near opponents as they swarm the Wild goal. Again, not doing the team any favors by putting the puck into favorable areas.
With the Wild back at it Thursday night in Montreal, head coach Bruce Boudreau has opted to go with backup Alex Stalock who posted a shutout on Monday against the Ottawa Senators. The Wild are needing a win to salvage their road trip, and not going with Dubnyk at this juncture suggests Boudreau is not entirely comfortable with his number one goaltender after these first five games.
If the Wild are to climb out of the hole they have created for themselves early on this season, Dubnyk will have to play much better than what he has shown. He will have to in large part put the team on his back again if they want to find the playoffs, but this play so far this season is eerily similar to that of last season when the Wild nosedived once his play took a sharp turn.
The Wild have always relied on Dubnyk to win them hockey games since he arrived in January of 2015. But if he cannot win them games this season, it’s going to be a really long winter for Minnesota, as the Wild just do not have any firepower to match their opposition.
Painful facts in what is shaping up to be painful times for the Wild.