Want to hear from Devan Dubnyk?
I’m filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN on Wednesday and Thursday from 9-noon and the Wild’s goalie sensation will join me at 9:35 a.m. Wednesday. Wild coach Mike Yeo will join Thursday at 9 a.m.
Also Wednesday, CSN Chicago Blackhawks beat writer Tracey Myers, Wild Radio personality Kevin Falness (in studio, I plan to rip him to shreds), Fox Sports North’s Tyler Mason, KFAN’s Justin Gaard (Gophers talk from both) and maybe Sun-Sentinel Miami Heat beat writer and pal Ira Winderman (depending on his travel as he flies in from Detroit for Wednesday’s Wolves game I plan to attend) will join.
On Thursday, I’m beyond excited about this: My hero, professional poker player and hockey fanatic Daniel Negreanu will join to talk poker, hockey and hockey in Vegas. Also, the great Pat Micheletti and Paul Fletcher will join in studio for a little (OK, a lot of) hockey banter, former Viking Ben Leber will be in studio for two segments to talk football, Super Bowl and Imagine Dragons, as well as Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg in studio (I’m slowly but surely turning the all-around good guy into a cynical being like yours truly).
Big 3-0 win by the Wild tonight over the Hawks.
Last year, Ilya Bryzgalov saved the Wild’s bacon by going 7-1-3 down the stretch and recording three shutouts in 10 starts. Devan Dubnyk has bested that mark by being the fastest Wild goalie to three shutouts (eight starts) by making 24 saves tonight (he came within 7:40 from doing it last game against Vancouver in his seventh start).
Sense a theme?
Yeah, the Oilers stink defensively. And the Wild doesn’t. Two goalies who floundered in Edmonton seem to have no problem performing in Minnesota.
The Wild’s goaltending turned south in November and eventually the Wild’s game fell apart as confidence in the goalies waned and everybody tried to compensate before all semblance of what made the Wild successful disappeared.
I wrote about this concept in my huge goalie story two Sunday’s ago.
Dubnyk has given the Wild quality goaltending since his Jan. 14 arrival and slowly but surely signs of the good Wild, not the bad Wild, have reappeared.
Remember Jan. 13 when the Wild actually played well for two periods in Pittsburgh but still lost 7-2?
Remember the 25-minute postgame player-only meeting that almost made my deadline-panicked heart go kaput?
After the game, the word “trust” was thrown around at record pace. Trust the system, trust each other, trust the beat writer (I made that up), trust, trust, trust.
On Jan. 14, General Manager Chuck Fletcher made an absolutely necessary goalie move (that hopefully didn’t occur too late).
Prior to that goalie arrival from Arizona, the Wild had lost six in a row and 12 of 14. Since a 7-0 win at Buffalo the night after Dubnyk’s acquisition, the Wild is 6-1-1 in its past eight and has won four in a row. Dubnyk is 6-1, having started all eight games, with a 1.48 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
The Wild’s game has streamed back together and trust and confidence is back in the locker room.
Sounds simple, but Yeo said, “It started with one win. We needed that win. We were reeling, let’s be honest. We were reeling at that time and the one win allowed us to settle into things. There’s a better focus on our own job right now, there’s a better trust. It was a tough thing to overcome, but hopefully we learned from that.”
Yeo called tonight’s game probably the best all-around one of the Wild’s season. He also admitted afterward it was a “very big win” because with the team being idle the next three days, a loss would have caused the Wild to lose the ground it gained during a 3-0 road trip because all the teams it’s fighting with played either tonight or play in the interim before the Wild hosts the Avalanche.
It is just so hard to gain ground when you’re in a hole as deep as the Wild. It’s not so much the point deficit as the amount of teams you’re chasing for one or two spots.
Every single night when you’re in 12th place in a 14-team conference, it seems like two of the teams you’re chasing play each other.
Monday night it was Calgary vs. Winnipeg. Tuesday night, it’s Winnipeg vs. Vancouver and Colorado vs. Dallas.
In those cases, you have no other choice but to pray they don’t become three-point games.
Of course, tonight, both the above games were as Colorado beat Dallas in a shootout and Vancouver beat Winnipeg in overtime.
So the Wild, which hopped from 12th to ninth at one point, is now in 10th (tied with L.A. and Dallas) one point behind Colorado with 54 points and back to five points behind Vancouver and Calgary and seven behind Winnipeg.
And, no games until Saturday. So, to put how hard this is in perspective. The Wild has won four straight and has gained two points on the eighth spot and seven on the seventh spot.
It’s like you’re spinning your wheels at times, which is why that hole was so big.
As Mikko Koivu said after his one-goal, one-assist, seven-shot effort tonight, the Wild has no choice but to keep on winning because it seems like all the other teams do.
Yeo said he doesn’t know why, but he was really confident his team was prepared to beat the Blackhawks. I’m sure part of it had to do with the fact the Hawks hadn’t even skated since playing in San Jose on Saturday because it was in Vegas, which I wrote about a lot in my gamer, so please read that.
But Yeo felt confident that the Wild wouldn’t be debilitated by the typical first-game-back-after-a-long-road-trip flatness. He said he impressed upon his team a sense of urgency, he loved the player focus during the morning skate and he said it took three shifts for him to realize the players would bring it all night.
First shift, the Jason Zucker-Koivu-Jason Pominville line was all over the Hawks, Zucker hit the post and the Wild brought it from there all night long.
“It was just incredible work by us,” Dubnyk said. “It just shows us how great of a team we are in here. To go up against Chicago and so relentless for the entire night, we were just right on top of them. They couldn’t make any plays because we working back to get on top of pucks. It was fun to watch.”
First and foremost, Yeo liked the Wild’s attention to defending, which led to the Wild having the puck seemingly all night long.
Zucker had a beautiful breakaway goal set up by a Koivu regroup and Marco Scandella headman pass (Zucker’s 18th goal), Scandella was plus-2 with a franchise-record-tying for defensemen (Brent Burns) eight shots, Mikael Granlund had a goal set up by Zach Parise stopping a clear by pressing his butt against the glass and Dubnyk made 24 shots as the Wild outshot Chicago 43-24 one home game after outshooting the Hawks 44-20.
Yeo loved Zucker’s game and says all the breakaways he gets is “speed, but it’s also thinking fast, it’s recognition.”
On how good the Koivu line was in its fourth straight game together, Yeo said, “That line has been great for us lately. Felt bad for them that they haven’t been getting rewarded. They’ve been getting chance after chance, but they’ve been great at both ends of the ice.”
Scandella was an awesome player again and I mentioned this on Twitter, one big reason why the Wild hasn’t been giving him power-play time is because he is unlike any defenseman it has. He is a warrior in the D-zone and the Wild wants him to go all-out offensively and defensively in 20 minutes rather than having his game potentially take a step back and him not being as effective in 25 or 26 minutes.
“He’s an important player, especially against a team like that with the depth they have offensively. [We’re] continuing to push him to new levels. We’re seeing the offensive side of things from him now, too, which is huge. More than anything else, we need him to be an anchor back there defensively. We need him to be a guy with his skating ability, his gap control, his ability to separate people from the puck, that’s got to be first and foremost.”
That’s it for moi. It’s midnight, I'm alone in the press box, I still have the famed Wild Minute to "produce," and I have to get home so I can get to the radio station early Wednesday. No practice for the Wild. No blog barring news, but of course, I’ll have a story in Thursday’s paper. Rachel Blount is covering Thursday’s practice.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Wild keeps rookies Matt Dumba or Christian Folin here. The Wild is 18-8 with Dumba in the lineup and he had a good game tonight. Folin has been scratched in three straight, but Yeo doesn’t want to take out Nate Prosser right now with him playing so well and the team winning. Obviously, the Wild doesn’t want either rookie sitting or playing limited minutes, so we’ll see if one or the other goes down, even if only for a few days.
Perhaps even one gets sent down to play one game at Lake Erie on Friday before being called up again. We shall see.
Talk to you on the radio.