Before a puck was ever dropped, before Head Coach Mike Yeo could blow his first whistle, and before Devan Dubnyk's second year as a member of the Minnesota Wild began, he stood outside the locker room at Braemar Ice Rink with a motivated grin.
Dubnyk began to paint the picture of his expectations for his second season in Minnesota, largely framed around the expectations of those not named Devan Dubnyk.
"I don't need to prove anything," Dubnyk said then.
Still, Wednesday was good validation for the 29-year-old goalie.
"I know there was a lot of people that were waiting to see what I was going to do this year and were looking forward to jumping on me if I didn’t play well," Dubnyk said. "So it’s nice to be able to have this, and continue on playing well with this group."
Dubnyk was coming off the best season of his career after being traded to the Wild in January. It featured a stretch in which he started 39 straight games, going 27-8-2 with the Wild.
He helped Minnesota reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, won the Masterton Trophy, and signed a six-year contract to remain in Minnesota.
His latest achievement came on Wednesday when he was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in what has been a whirlwind year for Dubnyk, and one he could have never predicted.
"No, not even half of it," Dubnyk said. "Not to say that you don’t believe in yourself, but there are things that need to fall into place for the last year to happen."
But if there was anyone who was forecasting Dubnyk could replicate his performance from last year in Minnesota, it was Dubnyk. What had gone so well for him with the Wild, according to Dubnyk, was repeatable.
"I wasn’t worried about it," Dubnyk said. "I felt really comfortable about where my game was last year — I wasn’t doing backflips on the ice to stop the puck.
"It was something I knew I was able to continue to play at that level."
His comments echoed what Dubnyk had to say back in September, when he said, "It's understanding why I was having the success last year, and I'm fully capable of playing like that."
In the past year, Dubnyk hasn't transformed into a different goaltender, but established the necessary steps to sustain a high level of success.
Coming into this season, it was about re-choreographing those steps and dancing to the same tune.
"I was trying not to put too much on myself," Dubnyk said. "I was prepared for that critique and I got it at the start of the year – after the preseason, after game two, and game seven. It took a little while so it was a little more frustrating than I expected."
Now he's a Minnesotan through and through, by his own admission.
"It feels like this is where I’m supposed to be," Dubnyk said, wearing a Minnesota Twins hat with a camouflage brim, standing in front of his locker stall. "Last year was obviously a crazy situation with the way everything went. It’s nice to be able to continue that into this year."
It's a big moment in Dubnyk's career, despite what he described as an event not meant to feature his position.
"Nobody wants to see the goalies in the All-Star Game," he said. "You just go and enjoy yourself and don’t worry about how many saves you make, just see what you can do and try to get in front of as many as possible."