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Dubnyk Hopes to Build on Career Year

Wild goaltender was among best in the League in most major categories this season

by Devin Lowe /

ST. PAUL -- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk will tell you that the offseason is different for a netminder than for the skaters around him.

He calls it "the curse of the goalie."

"You think about every goal you let in 100 times over," Dubnyk said on Tuesday afternoon during Minnesota's locker cleanout day. "There'll be a night in July I'll be sitting out on the deck and start thinking about game 38, and 'I shouldn't have done that.' That's the life."

Dubnyk stopped a career-high 1,842 pucks next to 141 goals allowed to earn the League's eighth-lowest goals-against average of 2.25. It might seem that Dubnyk, who won 40 games for the first time in his career this season, deserves both a physical and mental break after starting 63 of Minnesota's 82 games and adding five more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

General Manager Chuck Fletcher would agree.

During his end-of-season press conference with Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, Fletcher reiterated his confidence in his goaltender in the face of a few shaky starts in the month of March.

"...I thought he played really well in the playoffs," Fletcher said of Dubnyk. "He made a lot of big saves. I thought we defended pretty well. We didn't give them much of anything. They scored 10 goals, and we didn't give them a ton of chances, and Dubnyk did make a lot of big saves.

"I have all the confidence in the world that he can be the guy. Down the stretch here, 25 games in 35 days, did that impact him? I don't know. He played a lot of hockey. Everybody in the League played a lot of hockey. ... But I thought he played well in the playoffs."

Video: Dubnyk, Fletcher Look Back on Goalie's Career Year

Fletcher attributed some of Dubnyk's performance in March to both fatigue and to the team in front of him not defending as well as they had been from October to February. 

One of the key factors in that fatigue, Fletcher said, was the lack of a steady hand behind Dubnyk in the busiest stretch of the season. Darcy Kuemper made just two starts in March and appeared in another contest in relief of Dubnyk that month.

Nearing the end of the season, Dubnyk started 16 games in 30 days, including two back-to-backs in late February and mid-March.

"You need your backup goalie to win games and to play games," Fletcher said. "Maybe if your No. 1 guy is a little tired or having a tough stretch maybe to be able to sit him for a week and have your backup guy go in for a few games, that stuff is critical."

Fletcher praised the play of Alex Stalock, the former UMD Bulldog who signed with Minnesota last summer and spent the majority of his season down in Iowa. Stalock was called up late in March, and he recorded a .944 save percentage and a 1.51 goals-against average in two contests with Minnesota.

With Kuemper's contract up this summer, there is some potential for a Dubnyk-Stalock goaltending tandem next season, but Fletcher wouldn't offer specifics beyond his confidence in his options in goal.

As for Dubnyk, the Wild's No. 1, he'll take some time to recover physically, even though he can't stop himself from thinking through the season during the months ahead. He feels like the team took great steps forward this year and will continue to grow as next season approaches.

"When you come into a season you want to continue to get better, and you want to find ways to be better than years before and better than the game before and build," Dubnyk said. "And I thought we did an extremely good job as a group. Everybody's disappointed how playoffs finished up.

"That's what you can do is go in and all make sure that next year you prepare the same way. And to shoot for 40 or more [wins] again is going to be the goal, and if that's the case, then we should be in a good spot going into the postseason again."

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