DENVER – Devan Dubnyk doesn’t consider himself a regular on highlight reels.
“Unless I’m flying around doing poke checks out of my net,” he said.
But the replay of one of his stops has been making the rounds in the hockey world and looks like an early candidate for save of the year, a windmill-style catch Dubnyk made Thursday in the Wild’s season opener against former teammate Mikael Granlund.
“It’s great,” said Dubnyk, who became just the second goalie in franchise history to play in 300 games on Saturday. “It’s not the save selection you’re going to make all the time in that play. That’s what makes it fun. I don’t know why it happens sometimes that my brain decided to do something like that, but it’s fun.
“Guys loved it on the bench … but the most important thing was the puck stayed out of the net. It’s certainly fun to be able to do something like that every once in a while.”
Early in the second period of an eventual 5-2 loss for the Wild, Nashville’s Matt Duchene led a 2-on-1 with Granlund into the Wild’s zone.
Recognizing Duchene as having a potent shot, Dubnyk was set on Duchene. Once Duchene handed off to Granlund, Dubnyk knew he could get over to front Granlund but he’d have to open up to attempt the grab — which he ended up timing perfectly.
“It’s good to have your body know that it can do something different, too,” the 33-year-old said. “I’m old, [but] I got that deep down in me somewhere.”
Aside from tweaking two of its forward lines, the Wild also made a change on defense against the Avalanche — subbing Carson Soucy in for Nick Seeler on the third pairing next to Brad Hunt.
Not only was this Soucy’s season debut, but it was just his fourth regular-season game in the NHL.
“There’s going to be nerves,” Soucy said. “But hopefully just control them and play the way I have been.”
This was the Wild’s plan all along, to have Seeler appear in the season opener since he’s been with the team longer, before Soucy got a crack in Game 2.
“Then let’s see,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I figure Hunt’s the only one who can play the right side, so that’s why he’s in there or all three of them would be potentially taking their turns. This is no message to Seeler. This is no message at all. [It’s the] second game of the season, getting everybody involved. I’m sure if things don’t work out, [center Victor Rask’s] going to get a chance pretty soon, too.”
The game was Soucy’s first NHL action in almost a year and a half. After being a late call-up in 2017-18, the former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog skated in four playoff games against the Winnipeg Jets before spending all of last season in the minors. A path like that isn’t usual for youngsters trying to break into the NHL, but the insight Soucy banked from competing on the league’s most intense stage could help him settle in this season.
“It was just another level playing against some of those guys,” the 25-year-old said. “You gotta be ready every shift. Whether it’s a slower game or it doesn’t seem like everything’s going fast that game, one shift it can be in the back of your net or you can get a good chance. You just gotta be ready every shift.”
Of the six Wild players who registered a point Thursday, three were defensemen — an encouraging sign that the back end will remain a consistent contributor on offense.
Last season, the Wild led the NHL in power-play goals (16) and percentage of goals (20.9) by defensemen while ranking fifth in goals (44).
“If you look at the key to our success on offense from last year and the year before,” Boudreau said, “it starts from our defense.