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Dubnyk eager to prove doubters wrong next season

Veteran goaltender overcame plenty in a challenging, unique 2019-20 season

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

In a season filled with uncertainty, perhaps no Wild players experienced more of it the past year than goaltender Devan Dubnyk. 

The veteran netminder was unable to get fully on track in 2019-20, a year in which he was at his sharpest early in the year when he simply wasn't getting much help. 

Remember the windmill save on opening night in Nashville?

Video: MIN@NSH: Dubnyk lays out to rob Granlund with glove

But after Minnesota's 4-1 win in Buffalo last November, Dubnyk returned home and was witness to an unshakable medical episode of his wife, Jennifer.

He spent the next several weeks with his family searching for answers from doctors and didn't play again until Dec. 19, a game in which he made 35 saves in a crazy win at Arizona. 

Video: Dubnyk gets the postgame helmet in Arizona

Dubnyk would play in just 15 games after that, a rare occurrence for one of the NHL's busiest goaltenders over the past several seasons. And when the playoffs began in the Edmonton bubble, it was Alex Stalock who earned the start and played in all four games. 

"Going into that I think Al obviously did an
extremely good job down the stretch to put us in that situation in the first place," Dubnyk said. "So I understood that [there was] probably a good chance that he was going to get an opportunity and I thought he played extremely well. "

And while things with his family have sorted themselves out and weren't an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the regular season prematurely, the uncertainty seems likely to stretch into the offseason for Dubnyk.

Statistically, the 2019-20 season was Dubnyk's most difficult as a member of the Wild, and with just one year remaining on a five-year deal he signed in Minnesota just months after he was traded here in 2015, Dubnyk could be playing for his career next season. 

Whether that's in Minnesota, or elsewhere, is yet to be determined, but Dubnyk will prepare like he'll be back between the posts for the Wild on opening night. 

That's just who he is.

"I've talked about it before, just very difficult to get traction going," Dubnyk said. "But as much as people like to talk and create storylines in this, I think we can probably all agree that I didn't forget how to stop the puck this year. It was just a strange year. I've been doing this for a long time and I'm very competitive and fully prepared to come into camp next year ready to get back to playing the majority of the games."

In terms of that preparation, Dubnyk has experience to lean on.

In his final season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013-14, Dubnyk posted a 3.36 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage. He was traded twice that season, but played in just games after leaving the Oilers. 

A free agent that offseason, his career was at a crossroads.

He signed a one-year deal with Arizona as a backup, excelled, and was dealt to a Wild team desperate for consistency in goal in January of 2015. 

His run in the weeks after that trade is stuff of legend: A 27-9-2 record, a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage en route to being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender.

He's been a staple in the lineup ever since.

Video: Dubnyk reflects on strange year on and off the ice 

Dubnyk said he'll lean on that experience from years ago to get himself mentally prepared for next season.

"It wasn't anything as treacherous as that was by any means, but just understanding it," Dubnyk said. "There's lots of things that the people like to talk about, the storylines, but the thing is, I know I'm the same goalie I was before, and have been. That's just the way it is, and you have to believe in yourself. Take the offseason and take a breath and start fresh coming back.

"Every year's not going to be perfect and there are a lot of different things involved that made it a tough year but you just got to come back fresh and believe in yourself. That's what I did before, I've got no issues doing that again." 

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