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What's Wrong With Devan Dubnyk?

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Devan Dubnyk's been off this season, but what's at the root of his struggles?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn't stopped the Wild from going 7-2-2 so far this young season, but the biggest concern on this team has to be the play of Devan Dubnyk. Granted, no one on this planet thought that Dubnyk would be able to repeat his incredible second-half performance for the Wild- that was simply never going to happen. But when Wild GM Chuck Fletcher signed the Vezina finalist to a 6 year, $26 million contract this summer, it came with the expectation that he would prove to be a rock in net for the Wild, an above-average goalie who could stabilize the great defensive team in front of him.

That hasn't been the case thus far. Through 10 games, Dubnyk finds himself near the bottom of the league with an .898 Sv%. He's tied for the league lead in wins, but that's almost entirely a testament to the Wild's offense being able to bail out sub-par efforts from their netminder. Particularly alarming is that Dubnyk hasn't been able to shake off bad games put together a stretch of consistent efforts. This is in stark contrast to the goalie we saw last season.

So, there's a problem. And Wild fans know from experience what happens when this team gets shaky goaltending. The team re-commits to defense (regardless of whether the defense is the issue or not), stifling the Wild's offense, and leading to a December swoon. Mike Yeo's comments yesterday are potentially the first step in this process starting yet again, so it's imperative that the Wild figure out exactly what the problem with Dubnyk is.

So, what is it? Is a potential knee injury hampering him? Is there a mental block when it comes to stopping the puck? Is he not moving or seeing the puck as well? Has his defense hung him out to dry? To try and pin down the root of Dubnyk's struggles, I took a look at how Dubnyk performs while facing different types of shots, in different situations.

NOTE: A lot of the following break-downs will rely on WAR-on-Ice's definition of low, medium, and high-danger areas on the ice. A goalie is going to typically have the toughest time stopping pucks fired from the blue (High-Danger zone), and an easier time stopping puck coming from the yellow (Low-Danger zone). I'm afraid things are going to get a tad stat-heavy from here on out, but stay with me, we're getting somewhere.

WAR Danger Zones

I'll start by quickly touching on the Wild's defense. As the Wild have given up goals, their defense in front of Dubnyk has been cited as an accomplice to Dubnyk's struggles. But is this true? We'll start by comparing the Wild's defense in front of Dubnyk to last year's.

Wild Defense in front of Dubnyk

Shots Allowed/60

Low-Danger SA/60

Med-Danger SA/60

Hi-Danger SA/60

14-15 5v5

26.5

12.8

7.3

6.5

15-16 5v5

25.1

12.8

5.2

7.0

It's virtually the same- in fact, the Wild are allowing less shots overall, with less shots coming from down the middle and in the slot. If there's a drop-off in the Wild's defense, it's not showing itself in this regard. It appears they've been keeping the shots they've allowed as harmless as possible.

The variable? Dubnyk's performance in stopping those pucks. Here's how Dubnyk fared on those shots he faced last year (for the Wild) and this year, as well as where those figures would've ranked compared to the 48 goalies who had 1000+ minutes in the 14-15 season.

Dubnyk at 5v5

Overall Sv%

Rank

Low-Danger Sv%

Rank

Med-Danger Sv%

Rank

Hi-Danger Sv%

Rank

14-15

93.97

4th

97.75

20th

94.71

5th

85.64

10th

15-16

91.88

32nd

95.05

49th

92.68

25th

85.45

10th

Here, we see the biggest difference between last year's Dubnyk and the one we've been seeing this season: He's not stopping the pucks he's supposed to. He's been fine on the more dangerous shots, but he's getting destroyed with soft goals, allowing 5 Low-Danger goals at 5v5 this year. To put those 5 Low-Danger goals in perspective, only Jonathan Quick (6) has more this season, and last season, Dubnyk gave up only 9 of those goals in 39 games with the Wild.

This is also true on the penalty kill. The Wild aren't allowing many shots to get through to the net, but Dubnyk's rewarded their efforts by allowing 5 goals- including 2 from the Low-Danger areas of the ice. Dubnyk was a key cog in the Wild having the league's best penalty kill last year, and now he appears to be the biggest reason for its current struggles.

What's the fix? It's hard to say. Goalies are notorious for being volatile- if you take a look at the worst-performing goaltenders this season, you'll see Vezina-finalists such as Tuukka Rask, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Semyon Varlamov. Dubnyk is a prime example of this, as he fell off the face of the Earth two seasons ago before resurrecting his career in Arizona. As someone who isn't well-versed in the mechanics and mentality of goaltending, I can't really prescribe a solution.

But it would appear that the problem is more mental than physical. On the medium and high-danger shots- when Dubnyk's movement, mechanics, and reflexes would be tested most- he's performed fine. That's speculative, but it's hard to imagine that there's something physical that would hinder him from easier saves, but allow him to stop more difficult shots.

Whatever the issue, the Wild need to figure it out. If Minnesota is going to get out of their brutal division and get into the playoffs, let alone make a deep run, it'll have to be because of their solid goaltending, not in spite of an unreliable Dubnyk.