By Lindsey Brown
*Lindsey Brown is a former college goaltender for THE Ohio State and Saint Anselm College. She was raised on the very Minnesota pond water that gets tossed on the ice before every Wild game. You can find her at Wild games or somewhere watching hockey and drinking a Diet Coke. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyBrown35*
Let’s keep it simple. Devan Dubnyk is playing far too many minutes so far this season. I know, I can hear most of you now, “LB, what’re you talking about. Dubnyk is killin’ it, he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career.”
TRUST ME, I KNOW.
That’s why so many coaches across all levels of hockey struggle with the concept of proper goaltender rotation. Dubnyk was acquired by the Wild via trade in January of 2014–15 season. From the beginning of the 2014-15 season through today, Dubnyk has started 257 games and logged 15, 244 minutes. Only two other goaltenders have seen more ice time in that span, Braden Holtby of the Capitals (GS: 269, TOI: 15,557) and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators (GS: 259, TOI: 15, 319).
So far this season, the Minnesota Wild have started Dubnyk in 14 games this season, backup netminder Alex Stalock has started the other four games. After wrapping up their seven-game road trip (the longest in franchise history) with a win in St. Louis on Sunday, the Wild decided to start Dubnyk against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals Tuesday night. Dubnyk, at times, looked physically and mentally gassed during the 5-2 loss, however it certainly would’ve helped if his teammates had provided some semblance of defensive support in the loss.
The “ride or die” attitude that the Minnesota Wild have employed with Dubnyk has worked in the past, but the now 32-year-old netminder is starting to show just how many butterflies he’s done over the course of his career.
My general rule of thumb when it comes to goaltending rotation is “for every two (starts), there’s one for you.” In layman’s terms, for every two games Dubnyk starts, Stalock should get one. But as most of us know, goalies have a reputation of being SLIGHTLY sensitive to pretty much everything and Dubnyk is no exception to that theory. As a former goaltender, I think it’s best to give Dubs a game off on a more frequent basis, especially with Stalock playing as well as he has been. I may be right, I may be wrong, but either way it’s something to keep an eye on.
The Minnesota Wild faced the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. Fortunately, the timing of the first of two match ups between the Caps and Wild could not work out better. The Capitals captured their first title in franchise history last season after YEARS of disappointing early playoff exits. Sound familiar?
So how exactly do the Wild compare to the 2017-18 Washington Capitals?
Heading into the 19th game of this season the Wild are 11-5-2.
The Washington Capitals were 10-7-1 at this point last year in their run to lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Are the Minnesota Wild on a similar trajectory to that of the Stanley Cup champions last season? Yes.
Are the Minnesota Wild capable of making a run through the playoffs with a shot to hoist the greatest trophy in sports? Absolutely.
Do I think that this is the year that the Minnesota Wild finally make a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup? Absolutely not.
It’s a negative outlook from my end right now, but that doesn’t mean my assessment is correct or set in stone. At this point last year, I’m sure many Caps-coverin’ journalists and fans didn’t feel particularly optimistic about their squad’s chances of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in a playoff series let alone winning the Stanley Cup. It’s November so there is PLENTY of season to unfold but I find it difficult to imagine this Wild club as a legitimate threat to knock of the likes of Winnipeg and/or Nashville before even reaching the Stanley Cup Final. For now, all they can do is beat the teams they’re supposed to and hope to hockey gods above that everyone stays healthy. That’s not too much to ask for, right?
Weekly Player Grades as told by GIFS & Uber Ratings
On a weekly basis I will sort each active player for the Minnesota Wild into one of three categories that describe how I think they’re playing.
5 Stars (Killin’ It)
Marcus Foligno – This guy is the heart and soul of the Wild right now. His heavyweight bought against Washington’s Tom “Cheaper than Marchand” Wilson was one of the few bright spots of the 5-2 loss on Tuesday. He leads the team with 21 PIM and has been dynamic at times especially with Eric Fehr as his centerman.
Nick Seeler – So far he has been my favorite player to watch this season. I think Nick Seeler is going to be a big part of this franchise’s future. His 1990s-esque physicality provides the Wild defensive core with some much-needed teeth. I think he would be a great option running point on the power play in place of Ryan Suter.
3 Stars (Ehhhhhh)
Jason Zucker – Over the last 11 games, Zucker has registered two goals and five assists. Zucker’s semi-coldish streak has flown under the radar largely due to the Wild finding scoring elsewhere. He’s not playing poorly but sometimes it seems like he disappears. Zucker’s game starts with his success on the forecheck so the Wild may want to look into getting him involved in that aspect of the game earlier. Consistent playing time with Granlund will allow him to utilize his speed and play in his natural opportunistic style. I’m not worried, but I’m not excited.
1 Star (Did you puke in the car?)
Nino Niederreiter – Nino is having a pretty tough time finding his game so far this season. He scored his first goal of the season just last week and has a team worst -7 +/- rating. I don’t think the Wild can leave him on the power play in effort to jumpstart his scoring touch for much longer. Every hockey player goes through streaks where everything goes to hell but something might be gained in moving him down the depth chart and into the trenches with Foligno and Fehr. Throwing his weight around with those two could offer Nino the opportunity to rediscover his game but more importantly allow him to knock some of his bad hockey juju into other players in a different sweater.
FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS ORIGINAL MASTERPIECE.
For those of you that have no idea what they’re looking at… I don’t think we can be friends.