Devan Dubnyk has made quite the resurgence in his career since being traded from the Arizona Coyotes to Minnesota. After struggling for so long with the Edmonton Oilers and playing himself out of the league just two seasons ago, it looks as if Dubnyk has finally found a home.
The Stretch Run
Devan Dubnyk was acquired on January 15 for one thing, and on thing only - to stabilize the goaltending position for a good Wild team sunken by sub-par performances in net. He arrived on a red-eye flight in Buffalo to take on the lowly Sabres and then proceeded to shutout the opposition as the Wild won handily 7-0. Dubnyk followed up the debut by starting in the next 37 consecutive games to help lead the Wild on an improbable 27-9-2 run to the 1st Wild Card spot and a third consecutive playoff berth for Minnesota. Before Dubnyk's arrival, statisticians and odds makers had the Wild with just a six percent chance of making the post season. What number 40 did in that time span was not only stabilize a position in need, but he propelled the team to the playoffs.
There were two sets of back-to-backs in particular in that stretch in which he was forced to play both and won both. A back-to-back versus the Washington Capitals in a 2-1 victory, followed by a 3-1 victory in which Duby had to stop 37 of 38 shots on goal. He faced a shelling on and passed. later in the month of March, the Wild traveled to Anaheim and lost to the Ducks 2-1 (of course they did) then had to face the Blues in St. Louis the next night. Dubnyk stopped 41 shots and held on just long enough for his team to strike for two quick goals and shock the Blues' faithful. Not only was the sheer number of games Dubnyk played down the stretch impressive, it was the fashion in which he had to win those games and the opponents they were against.
The Western Conference Quarterfinals
The Minnesota Wild would never have been in the playoffs were it not for the type of solid, and consistent (Consistent being the keyword) goaltending down the stretch. But that was the regular season and the Wild was looking to make a run in the post season. Minnesota would have to take on the St. Louis Blues, the Central Division champions, in the first round. On paper, the Blues just appeared to have the edge on the Wild. St. Louis had the kind of goal scorers the Wild only dream of Like Vladimir Tarasenko, Dmitri Jaskin, and Alexander Steen. They had the the toughness, the system, and the just didn't match-up well for the Wild. The one edge the Wild was in net. Minnesota had Dubnyk, and the Blues had a Brian Elliot/Jake Allen tandem. To say that Dubnyk was spectacular would be lying. The Wild couldn't completely wrangle in Tarasenko, and there were some questionably soft goals scored against, but he out-dueled Jake Allen in the other net as the Wild was able to dispatch the Blues in six games.
The Bill Masterton Award
On June 24th Devan Dubnyk became the second Wild goaltender to win the Bill Masterton Memorial award. Given to a player that best represents dedication, sportsmanship, and perseverance to the game of hockey, Dubnyk's miracle run and playoff series victory after playing himself out of the NHL the year prior was enough to gain the nod. Dubnyk was also nominated for the Georges Vezina trophy for most outstanding goaltender. That award ended up going to Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, but the nomination was deserved as he was second in the league in Goals Against Average and Save percentage only to the Vezina winner. It was the perfect cap of a spectacular season for Dubnyk.
The Big, New Contract
Just three days after Dubyk accepted the Masterton Award in Las Vegas, Dubnyk and the Wild agreed on a brand spankin' new six-year $26 million deal. The goaltending position for the Wild had been the biggest question mark for the team entering the 2015 offseason. Seemingly having one land in their laps with real NHL experience, the Wild front office made an investment into number 40's future with a significant pay raise. This is a guy that took a $800K deal to back up Mike Smith in Arizona on a whim. There he worked goalie coach Brian Burke to re-discover his game. Just six months later, he was making an average $4.33 million and the team's number one starter.
Now some people immediately came out of the woodwork to criticize the contract. Fans thought it was too much money and too many years to give for a run of just 40 or so games. And while that fear was warranted, since the Wild are still paying Niklas Backstrom for not playing, Dubnyk has stayed consistent.
The New Season
After rounding out the the regular season with an amazing performance and a .939 save percentage in 39 games with the Wild the start to the new campaign got off to a rough start. Even with a 7-2-1 record in the month of October, his save percentage was a mere .898. It forced the Wild to have to make some improbable comebacks in the early goings. However, with the funky October schedule in which the Wild would play two games back-to-back, then take five days off, only to play another set of back-to-backs with more extended breaks meant that it was awfully tough for anyone to find a rhythm. As the season chugged along, Dubnyk's game started to get stronger and stronger. Following up that awful October with a .918 in November, then a very impressive .944 in December to stave off the annual Wild December swoon. Dubnyk has a good start on January, posting a .933 in three games thus far.
If you're keeping track, Dubnyk has had 12 months of real solid goaltending.
Dubnyk has been nothing if he hasn't been consistent.
ASG: All-Star Goalie
With his great first half expanding on his great run from the spring, Dubnyk has found himself as the sole representative for the Wild at the All-Star Game in Nashville. The "Giraffe" has great mobility for his large 6'5" frame and it will be tested often in the new All-Star Game format that will feature a 3-on-3 tournament between the four divisions. Looking back, his taking part in the All-Star Weekend festivities is well deserved.
Devan Dubnyk's NHL career has taken has gone many directions, but since he landed in Minnesota, he's performed well, exceeding expectations. He may have gotten the big contract prior to the season, but that money only makes him the 23rd highest paid goaltender in the league. And for the Wild, he's proven to be an NHL-level and competent backstop. With an average .926 save percentage in the last eight months of regular season action, that places him at fourth best in the entire league with the most games played (73) of the top five netminders over that span. He has been everything the Wild has needed him to be. Before, the Wild was a good team sunken by awful goaltending. Now, Minnesota can safely say that barring an injury to Dubnyk, that position is shored up for at least 5 more seasons.