ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Goalie Devan Dubnyk broke into the NHL almost 10 years ago and is on the brink of a major milestone, sitting one game shy of 500 for his career.
And yet despite that longevity, experience that’s lifted the 33-year-old to one of the limited number of starting jobs in the league, Dubnyk isn’t safeguarded from slumps.
Instead, adversity continues to test the netminder — like it is right now.
With just two wins to date and statistics worse than the league average, Dubnyk was in the backup role Tuesday against the Ducks as the Wild tabbed Alex Stalock to start in the opener of a four-game road trip.
“You’re just not going to go through every single year with no lulls or everything goes great all the time,” Dubnyk said. “You certainly don’t want to end up with it at the start of the season, but … each year is unique in its own way and there’s different challenges and different things that come up. This is what it happens to be this year.”
Since returning from an upper-body injury that knocked him out of the Oct. 22 game vs. Edmonton and sidelined him completely for two others, Dubnyk is winless in two starts while giving up six goals on 55 shots.
Overall, he’s 2-6-1 with a 3.68 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.
“There’s just a couple goals getting by that when things are going well and you’re confident, those might not get through,” Dubnyk said after a lengthy morning skate Tuesday in Anaheim.
That appeared to be the case last Saturday when Dubnyk was in net for the 4-3 overtime loss to the Blues.
After the game, coach Bruce Boudreau said, “He could have had a couple of them, but he didn’t. So those are things, again, you have to battle through.”
While he doesn’t feel like his game is off, Dubnyk is aware of what it’ll take to improve. And that’s not worrying about his numbers and instead concentrating on sharpening up to work his way out of this funk.
“It doesn’t feel like things should be where they are right now,” Dubnyk said. “So I guess that’s why it’s frustrating. You feel like it shouldn’t be where it is. It’s not fun.
“Day-to-day, it’s a lot more fun to be winning and to have success. So you just remember that feeling and try to get back to it.”
Saturday’s game was the first that progressed to extra time this season for the Wild, an outcome that dropped the team to 12-29 all-time in contests resolved in overtime since the 3-on-3 format was implemented ahead of 2015-16.
As a result, the Wild is tweaking its approach.
“We’re going to have a new strategy,” Boudreau said. “I can’t share it, [but] we went through three preseason games and one regular-season game and we didn’t have any success.
“Just to keep trying the same stuff sounds pretty ridiculous, so we’re going to try something new if it happens again.”
Boudreau did acknowledge that speed is certainly a factor during 3-on-3 action, but he also pointed out that awareness is key.
“Realize where you are in that shift,” he explained. “Like if you’re at the end of a minute shift, for example, and you get a turned puck over and you try to score without getting a change, if you don’t score [then] you’re usually in big trouble.”
Keep it simple
After going without a goal through his first eight games of the season, winger Kevin Fiala recorded his first Saturday.
And how he scored the goal — a bad-angle shot from along the boards — could be a helpful reminder of what it takes to add to that total.
“[My dad] used to say anytime you’re in a slump, you just start shooting pucks at the net,” Boudreau said. “You get six or seven shots at the net, eventually one of them is going to go in.
“ I keep telling the guys that I still believe in that philosophy. It’s not a philosophy of when you’re in a slump to try to make things cuter and perfect. It’s [to] simplify.”