Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hasn’t shared all of his personal expectations for the season, but after maintaining his hold on second place in NHL scoring among defensemen last Thursday with another tally, he revealed he’d like to pace the pack.
And a week later, that’s exactly what Dumba is doing — a swift ascent amid a torrid start to the season that has underscored just how much of a dynamic presence Dumba is becoming for the Wild in the offensive zone.
“It’s fun,” Dumba said. “I think it’s sustainable if I just keep looking ahead and not try to do anything too tricked up or too special. Guys are kind of getting it to me more often and finding my wheelhouse.”
After scoring twice in the 6-4 victory over the Senators on Wednesday, Dumba had 10 goals — which is not only tied for the most on the Wild but is more than any defenseman in the league has contributed so far.
He became only the sixth blueliner since 1989-90 to bury 10 or more goals through his team’s first 22 games, a rhythm that puts him within reach of a few Wild franchise records for a defenseman.
With 54 career goals, the 24-year-old is only five away from teammate Jared Spurgeon (59 after eight full seasons) for the most in team history and seven shy of matching the 17 Brent Burns put up in 2010-11 for the best single-season output.
And there are 60 games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
“He’s going to score as long as he keeps shooting the puck and hitting the net,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “because his shot is that good.”
Dumba wired in a one-timer in the first period Wednesday for his fourth power-play goal of the season — also most among NHL defenders — before unleashing a wrist shot in the second. He flashed an elusiveness with his shot in 2017-18, when he established a career high in goals with 14, but better accuracy has headlined his attempts this season.
This improvement has culminated in a 13.9 shooting percentage, which is second among defensemen who have scored at least five goals and higher than Dumba’s 8.6 percent career average. But a conversion rate like that is also indicative of astute shot selection, another area of Dumba’s approach that seems to have evolved.
“Everybody knows he’s always had that shot,” center Eric Staal said. “He’s becoming smarter about where he sets himself up to give himself those looks. You need guys to make the plays, too, but you put yourself in position to let it go, and I think he’s becoming smarter with decisionmaking as far as when to hammer it and when to not.”
The left side seems to be a fruitful area for the righthanded Dumba, especially on the power play. And even though it’s becoming a predictable setup, he keeps converting — like he did on his first goal Wednesday and last Saturday against the Sabres.
Overall, Dumba has scored five times during a five-game point streak that’s tied for the longest of his career — a run he’ll have the opportunity to extend Friday when the Wild plays host to the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center for a matinee game.
“They find their spots,” Boudreau said. “They get their shots down and as long as they hit the net, with the way it comes off the stick, it’s very hard for goalies to pick it up. If he can continue that, he’ll continue to have success.”
And doing that would make this season a meaningful one for Dumba, more than it already is.
“If I can get it to the net, usually it’ll create something,” Dumba said. “If it’s a goal, great. But if it’s an assist for other guys going to the net, that’s pretty good, too.”