With the Minnesota Wild's 2015-16 season beginning on Thursday with a game against the Avalanche in Colorado, Wild.com is breaking down different elements of the team entering the season.
Read part 1 of the preview: Forwards
Read part 2 of the preview: Defensemen
Though the Wild didn't make any dramatic changes to its roster this offseason, Head Coach Yeo is quick to point out extending goalie Devan Dubnyk another six years was a key move for the team to make.
Dubnyk was acquired on Jan. 14, and beginning with a shutout win on Jan. 15 against the Buffalo Sabres, helped changed the complexion of Minnesota's season.
That game began a stretch of 38 consecutive Wild starts for Dubnyk, during which he went 27-8-2 with a .938 save percentage. Dubnyk's .936 save percentage from Jan. 14 on was fourth in the League.
By every metric, Dubnyk's body of work after he was traded to Minnesota matched any goalie in the League. It was enough to vault him in the Vezina Trophy conversation, landing him as a finalist in two categories, eventually winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
"I worked on a lot of things that I learned last year, and kind of just tried to learn a little more in the summer," Dubnyk said. "I feel like a completely different person than I did going into the season last year, so hopefully I can continue to make strides forward."
Dubnyk's play influences the Wild on many different levels: With a last-line of defense as effective as Dubnyk was, the defensemen take notice.
"[Dubnyk] definitely has bailed me out a couple of times," Dumba said. "Sometimes I'll come back to the crease and just say thanks for bailing me out there.
"When we can help each other out like that, it builds for a lot of trust between everyone. I'm going to play my game, and try not to take those risks and put anyone into a situation where they have to cover for me, but mistakes happen all over the ice, and it's not just going to be me, but it's awesome having a wall back there like [Dubnyk]."
The 55 games he started last season were a career-high. The 39 consecutive games he started, dating back to before he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes, was the longest stretch in the NHL since 2007-08.
"I feel real good physically," Dubnyk said. "I just worked a lot on mobility, and core stability [over the summer], just really movements as a goalie. Obviously you don't do a whole bunch of heavy lifting as a goalie.
"It probably won't be 38 in a row at any point this year, but I had a lot of fun playing that many games, and I certainly didn’t' feel the fatigue last year."
Behind Dubnyk will be Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom. Kuemper won a career-high 14 games in 2014-15. At 25, he's still green as far as NHL experience with 63 games played, but has shown great poise in a number of outings including a 163:46 minute shutout streak — franchise record from start of season—to open the 2014-15 season.
Backstrom returned to the preseason from an injury and looked sharp, including in a 28-save shutout against the Winnipeg Jets.