Last Thursday in Washington, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher cut short an interview to gasp when he saw his goalie, Devan Dubnyk, go down in a heap after taking a Matt Dumba slapshot to the left shoulder.
Dubnyk bent forward, placed the top of mask onto the ice and grimaced in a frozen position for about five seconds as the morning skate came to a scary standstill. He finally stood up, shook off the pain and continued to take slapshots from the defensemen for the rest of the morning skate.
“He’s OK. He’s OK,” Fletcher said, staring at a reporter with a horrified look. “Thank God.”
Tuesday morning, it happened again.
This time, Dumba nailed Dubnyk in the left shoulder two days after putting a dent in Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov’s right shoulder with a similar laser.
Dumba looked like he was going to get sick on the ice. Dubnyk shook off the pain yet again, and the rookie defenseman proceeded to apologize umpteen times.
In the locker room afterward, Dumba tried to laugh it off before turning serious: “I should smarten up. I know you can’t do that,” a reference to the fact that you’re not supposed to shoot high on your own goalie in practice.
Dubnyk chuckled afterward.
“He can hit the puck. He’s got an incredible shot,” Dubnyk said. “I’m fine. I told him the only thing he can do now for me is to stop worrying about it. It’s not a big deal. I told him to stop apologizing. My arm’s already dead.”
The dead arm didn’t hinder Dubnyk in a 6-2 victory later that night over New Jersey. In Dubnyk’s 200th career start, he earned his 19th win in a Wild sweater. He is 19-4-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .937 save percentage. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 19 games and ranks first in the NHL in wins, tied for first with five shutouts, second in goals-against average and third in save percentage since Jan. 15.
Including his games with Arizona, Dubnyk is second in the NHL with a 2.11 goals-against average and second with a .928 save percentage.
Wild players can’t get over Dumba’s shot, a rocket for someone barely 6 feet and 190 pounds. Teammates say he’s hard to deflect because pucks fly off his stick so fast and so awkwardly. Players say the puck often turns vertically when it comes off his stick. At one point in Tuesday’s win over New Jersey, Dumba blasted a shot off the post that flew with such velocity, it looked like a blurry streak.
“Oh, it’s hard,” Dubnyk said of Dumba’s shot. “If you watch me, I can usually catch most of them or at least get a glove on it. But he’s hitting those things pretty good. I mean, you saw [the Colorado] game. One fell victim to it that wasn’t me.”
Dubnyk, 28, is a huge fan of Dumba, 20, saying: “He’s such a good kid. We grew up in the same [Calgary] neighborhood, but I’m like 100 years older than him.”
In the past 12 games, Dumba is a plus-14, has four goals, 26 shots and has averaged 18 minutes, 43 seconds per game.
Plenty of options
The Wild’s depth is so good right now, Jordan Schroeder, who has seven points and is plus-9 in his past 14 games, has been scratched in three of the past five games.
“It’s probably not hard for him to remember two months ago when he was playing in the minors, so he’s in the NHL right now and we told him he’s not going anywhere and we told him he’s part of the group and we’re going to make sure we include him,” coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s not a forgotten player for us. We know that he’s there and we know what he’s capable of and we’ll make sure he stays sharp.”
Similarly, when Marco Scandella returns from injury, there’s the potential of Jordan Leopold and Christian Folin being extra defensemen.
• Yeo loved how dangerous the Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Chris Stewart line was Tuesday, saying Niederreiter looked his most comfortable to date with his linemates.
• The 14 Wild players finding the score sheet vs. New Jersey set a franchise record.