It’s interesting how streaks get started.
For much of the early part of this NHL season, Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk didn’t look comfortable. He wasn’t exactly fighting the puck, but the results didn’t lie: Through his first 11 starts, Dubnyk had just a .903 save percentage and had allowed 32 goals. The Wild went 4-6-1 in those games, part of a slow start to a season filled with big expectations.
The last of those 11 games was an unexpected start in Toronto for Dubnyk. Backup Alex Stalock was supposed to play, but instead he was called back to Minnesota to be with his wife as she gave birth to their daughter, Selena. Stalock stayed in Minnesota for a couple more days, and Dubnyk started again the next night after giving up three goals on 18 shots in that game against Toronto.
The next start went much better. Jason Zucker scored three goals, and Dubnyk stopped all 41 shots he saw in a 3-0 Wild victory. He got the call two nights later in Philadelphia, even though Stalock had rejoined the team, and delivered a 32-save shutout. Back home in Minnesota on Tuesday, the Wild rode the hot hand. Dubnyk responded with his third consecutive shutout, again over the Flyers, breaking his own team record in the process by running his streak to 195 minutes, five seconds without allowing a goal.
The Wild is now 8-7-2. With another win at home Thursday over Nashville, Minnesota would have the same exact 18-game record — 9-7-2 — as it did a season ago. One would imagine Dubnyk will play again as long as he’s rolling. The natural questions, then, are 1) How long can he keep this streak going and 2) How long does he need to keep it going to have a chance at more than just a team record?
On the first question, it’s impossible to know but this much is true: Dubnyk is more than capable of putting together long stretches of brilliant play. He had three consecutive shutouts in late October last season as well, which was part of a generally brilliant first half of the season for Dubnyk.
On the second question, there is precise certainty: Dubnyk will need to record shutouts in his next two games (120 minutes total) and for most of the first period of his next start after that as well to match the NHL record streak of 3:32:01 set by Brian Boucher when he was with the Coyotes during the 2003-04 season.
Interestingly, Boucher set his record and notched his fifth consecutive shutout in a game against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center. In an interview with NHL.com earlier this year, Boucher recalled getting a standing ovation from the crowd at the X. “That’s pretty cool on the road to get that,” Boucher said. “You have to catch some breaks and I caught quite a few, like pucks that hit posts or maybe shots that you didn’t see that end up going wide. Goalies know what I’m talking about because these things happen all the time.”
Indeed, his streak ended early in the next game on an awkward deflection. We’ll see if Dubnyk can sustain the combination of skill and luck needed to seriously threaten the record. He’s more than halfway there, at least.
“I get a chuckle every time someone gets two or three shutouts because people will text me or I’ll get a tweet; they’ll get me all fired up,” Boucher told NHL.com. “I’m not going to lie to you, I like having [the records].”