Let’s be frank, Bruce Boudreau came to the Wild with a little male pattern baldness in the first place, but the coach quipped Thursday morning that he wished he could explain the Wild’s propensity for playing well and usually beating the NHL’s current playoff teams but losing to the non-playoff teams.
“I’d have more hair,” he cracked.
Boudreau’s always good with the one-liners, and the coach had another after the Wild scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins with 44.5 seconds left … off an intended pass: “This team’s going to kill me.”
The Wild, 3-5 against teams below the playoff threshold, improved to 6-1-1 against each conference’s top-eight by getting a perfect 25-save performance from Devan Dubnyk.
In a dazzling goalie duel between Dubnyk and Tuukka Rask, who entered with a 10-1 record, 1.54 goals-against average and .945 save percentage, it seemed like nobody would ever score.
So it was almost fitting that, as Zach Parise said, “The one we get, it wasn’t even a shot.”
In the final minute, 15 seconds after Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid fell hard on his back after being upended by Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund circled the net and tried a cross-crease feed to Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin. The puck instead hit McQuaid’s shin pad and ricocheted in.
“That’s why I always pass,” joked Granlund.
Facing the NHL’s best road team, Dubnyk recorded his league-leading fourth shutout and second in three weeks vs. the Bruins. Fourteen of Dubnyk’s 23 career shutouts have come since debuting with the Wild on Jan. 14, 2015, five of which have been by 1-0 scores.
“He’s playing great for us and we’re not giving him a lot of goal support, but it doesn’t seem to bother him at all,” Parise said.
That’s been the most impressive part of Dubnyk’s incredible run this season.
Dubnyk has given up nine goals in the past eight games, yet if the Wild had lost in regulation Thursday, his record would have fallen to .500. That’s pretty extraordinary for a goalie with a league-leading 1.48 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.
How has he not pulled his hair out like Boudreau?
“It’s not my job to score,” Dubnyk said. “It’s my job to work with the guys and defend. I have zero complaints with how the guys have been defending for me and playing. You take pride in that. This is a fun group to be out on the ice with right now in our end.
“I’ve got no question in here that these guys can put the puck in the net. Sometimes it takes something like [Granlund’s fluky goal] to turn it around.”
The Wild actually led the NHL in goals for much of October, but despite giving up 10 goals in the past 10 games, the team is only 6-4 in that span. That’s because the Wild has only scored 0.75 goals per game in the losses and was in danger of its third 1-0 loss in six games.
“It’s got to be tough on our goalies,” Boudreau said. “Mind you,” Boudreau continued, “we’re trying to score.”
Before Thursday’s game, Boudreau recounted to his players that the team he coached last season, Anaheim, was shut out in five of its first eight games. The Ducks won the Pacific Division.
“We stayed the course, and the ones that were hitting the post the beginning of the year were now starting to go in,” Boudreau said. “I feel this team’s going to be very similar.”
The Wild thought Boston scored the first goal with 5:24 left in the second when a point shot deflected in off David Backes’ leg. But Boudreau challenged offside, and near the Bruins bench, the linesmen indeed ruled Ryan Spooner’s skate was in the air. The goal was overturned.
“The last seven minutes, it looked like both teams were playing for overtime,” Boudreau said. “I was very pleasantly surprised. You know, Granny’s very creative, and … sometimes they shine on you and you get a chance to win the game.”