Wild’s Devan Dubnyk is ready, not rattled, when puck fires his way in playoffs
When the Wild turned to a younger and more inexperienced blue line for the playoffs after losing Ryan Suter to a right ankle fracture, the margin of error didnt just shrink for the new-look defense.
Goalie play became even more critical, too, and although the Wild trails its first-round, best-of-seven series with the Jets 3-1, Devan Dubnyk hasnt disappointed.
But this steadiness isnt a result of Dubnyk putting more pressure on himself to perform, because he hasnt.
Instead, the 31-year-old focused on maintaining the outlook that helped him ascend to elite status among NHL goaltenders a proficiency that has helped stoke the Wilds competitiveness in its clash with the Jets.
My approach to the game is a relaxed approach, Dubnyk said. I approach it, come game time, the same way go out there, have fun, stay relaxed.
Unlike starting pitchers or quarterbacks, goalies rarely ignite action. They dont throw a pitch or send a spiral down the field. In hockey, the puck usually has to come to the goaltenders for them to have an impact. They certainly can leave the net to make a play, but theyre mostly on guard in the crease.
There they dont dictate how many shots they face, whether its 25 or 50, or control how difficult each shot is to corral.
And these realities have shaped Dubnyks attitude, a mind-set that really crystallized as he began to settle into his role as the Wilds starter.
Goaltending is a reactive position, he said. So you can only do what youre allowed to do. So all you can do is, you cant focus on wins or losses or the outcome of the game. You just have to go and be sharp and make sure youre prepared to be your best.
Based on how Dubnyk has played since he joined the Wild and in this series against the Jets, this strategy has certainly suited him.
His 132 saves and 142 shots faced in the playoffs led the NHL entering Tuesdays games. Among goalies who had played four games, his .929 save percentage sat third.
How Dubnyk has manufactured this productivity has been key, too. Hes been economical, with pucks hitting him since hes tended to be in the right place at the right time.
When tough goals have happened, such as the Blake Wheeler deflection off defenseman Jonas Brodins stick or the half-wall shot from defenseman Tyler Myers in Game 3, hes rebounded.
And hes also made impressive saves when pressed, a well-rounded effort thats oozed the poise the Wild needs.
With him, you know when hes on, hes moving well from side to side, center Eric Staal said. Hes tracking pucks really well through traffic, and then he can come up with a really big save at a key time. And those are what great goalies do, they come up with saves at the important moments when you need them.
If something goes bad against them, they forget about it and they move on and they worry about the next shot, next save, and have that right mind-set and mentality. Since Ive been here, thats what hes had. He gives us a chance every night, and thats all you can ask for.
This showing by Dubnyk might not be enough to extend the Wilds season it could end as soon as Friday. But delivering on this stage has to be encouraging for the Wild, especially since Dubnyk believes the approach hes utilizing can produce the type of success the team ultimately craves.
If theres a game that doesnt go great, you cant let it affect the next game, he said. Just gotta continue to go and put yourself in the best position to be good and be yourself.