The Toronto Maple Leafs are the third-highest-scoring team in the NHL and feature two of the top 10 individuals, winger Mitchell Marner and center John Tavares.
Not exactly comforting news for Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, whose save percentage has been below .900 over the past four games after a strong start to the season.
Dubnyk has lost four of his past six; in Thursday night’s loss at Columbus, he gave up four goals on the first 14 shots. He called Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Arizona a strange game to “throw away.” And in the Wild’s 6-4 victory against Ottawa on Nov. 21, when coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Dubnyk in the third period before the team made the comeback, Dubnyk said he felt “in control.”
“It’s three games over two weeks, so it feels like a long time, which gives you guys a lot to talk about,” Dubnyk said of the media criticism. “I’m comfortable with myself and my game.”
Dubnyk downplayed his recent bad form, saying, “It’s easy to make a story out of something when the stats aren’t there or they don’t look good.” But he relies on his own feeling about how he played and personal tape review to decide if his performance needs tweaking.
Boudreau said he leaves a lot of Dubnyk’s coaching up to goaltending coach Bob Mason, though the head coach did have a meeting with Dubnyk on Friday. He mentioned after Thursday’s loss wanting Dubnyk to fight out of the slump he’s in.
“He’s our No. 1 goalie. He’s our go-to guy. He’s our guy that we’re counting on, and we just need him to be as good as he can possibly be,” Boudreau said. “He wants to get back. He’s seen himself as one of the best in the league, and he’s having a little rough spot like the rest of the guys are now. And hopefully he’ll get back to where he is.”
Toronto takes St. Paul
While his teammates skated on a small, makeshift rink in the shadow of the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, Jake Gardiner took off his gloves in order to take a big bite out of a Gerhard’s brat before shuffling back into the warming house ahead of his next shift.
A modest crowd of Toronto Maple Leafs fans and businesspeople on their lunch breaks surrounded the rink Friday to watch the Leafs play an intrasquad 3-on-3 tournament. A haphazardly strung sign on the rink netting read “Gardiner Classic,” with the winning team autographing the poster before the whole team took a picture in front of it.
Getting a chance to relive the youth hockey days seemed a good enough reason for the Leafs, who also skated outdoors last year, to come to town a day early. Coach Mike Babcock approached Minnesota native Gardiner to come up with some ideas to inject some fun into a series of road games.
Gardiner’s dad ended up doing most the planning, and the Gardiners turned out in full force again to enjoy the afternoon, something Gardiner has been planning since this past summer.
Babcock said this fun day was a reward for his team’s strong play.
“It’s great for team morale. When you’ve got a good team … you can do what you want to team build because no one’s questioning it because you’re winning enough games,” Babcock said. “This is probably the best way to infuse life into your team.”
And maybe some extra calories — Babcock had to get a run in after the light session because he, too, grabbed a brat.