The law of a Minnesota sports fan states that when things are going bad, you will find silver linings … and when things are going good, you will find things to worry about.
When the Wild was awful in the middle of this season, fans found a silver lining: if the goaltending would only improve, this team might have a chance. The Wild traded for Devan Dubnyk, he's been fantastic … and now fans are worried that he's going to be overworked. He made his 22nd consecutive start Thursday in Washington, breaking the team record.
The real fretting is coming about in earnest, as the Wild has five sets of back-to-back games between now and the end of the regular season, with the first arriving Friday night against Carolina.
In the same way that we are now conditioned to look at the pitch count number at Target Field or the little box on the TV — anticipating as it approaches triple-digits because that magically means the starter must be getting tired — we are conditioned to believe that playing in back-to-back hockey (or basketball) games requires superhuman endurance.
It would be nice if the Wild had more of a cushion in the playoff race that riding Dubnyk wasn't so important, but that's not the reality. Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday the team hasn't decided yet if Dubnyk or Darcy Kuemper will start Friday.
If Dubnyk can play and wants to play, he should play. Because there's no rule that says he can't — just a shift in expectations over the years.
This is the extreme, but Glenn Hall started more than 550 consecutive games in goal spanning more than seven full seasons (including playoffs) in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure, that was a different era, and with six teams in the league — none on the West Coast — travel was shorter.
But during the seven full seasons in which Hall played every game (490 games in 70-game seasons), he played both ends of back-to-backs during the regular season 148 times (including a back-to-back-to-back Jan. 1-3, 1960). So 296 of his 490 starts were in back-to-backs.
Hall was a maniac who didn't even wear a mask or helmet during his streak. This is not a suggestion that Dubnyk should be Hall. But it is a suggestion that it's not crazy to think Dubnyk can play through this final month of the regular season — or at least until the Wild is safely into the playoffs — as long as his body feels good and he remains stout in goal.
The only crazy things are suggesting that he can't do it — or worrying about it before it happens.