The law of a Minnesota sports fan states that when things are going bad, you will find silver linings … and when things are going good, you will find things to worry about.
The Wild traded for Devan Dubnyk, he’s been fantastic … and now fans are naturally worried that he’s going to be overworked. He has made 21 consecutive starts for the Wild, tying the team record.
That’s a nice run, and by modern standards that qualifies Dubnyk as a workhorse. The real fretting is coming about in earnest now, though, as the Wild has five sets of back-to-back games between now and the end of the regular season — starting tonight and Friday against Washington and Carolina.
The worrying is very Minnesotan. But it’s also very subjective and bordering on nonsense. By virtue of not being the No. 1 goalie in Arizona before being traded here, Dubnyk still ranks just 23rd in the NHL in games played among goalies this season. So he’s fresher than a lot of other netminders right now, assuming he takes care of himself.
More than that, though, being “tired” is often as much of a mental game as it is a physical game. In that sense, it will affect us as much as we let it affect us. If goalies are supposed to rest on one end of back-to-back games, that becomes the accepted norm.
Here’s the bottom line: If Dubnyk can play and wants to play, he should play. Because there’s no rule that says he can’t — just a shift in expectations over the years.
This is the extreme, but Glenn Hall started more than 550 consecutive games in goal spanning more than seven full seasons (including playoffs) in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure, this was a different era, and with six teams in the league — none on the West Coast — travel was shorter. But it was also a different era of travel comfort and recovery methods. Performance-enhancing drugs, by and large, were cigarettes and bourbon.
We went back and looked at Hall’s streak. During the seven full seasons in which Hall played every game (490 games in 70-game seasons), he played both ends of back-to-backs during the regular season 148 times (including a back-to-back-to-back Jan. 1-3, 1960). So 296 of his 490 starts were in back-to-backs.
Every goalie is different. Every body is different. Hall was a maniac who didn’t even wear a mask or helmet during his streak.
We’re not suggesting Dubnyk should be Hall. What we are suggesting is that playing back-to-back games is all a matter of perspective and that it’s not crazy to think Dubnyk can play through this final month — or at least until the Wild is safely into the playoffs — as long as his body feels good and he remains stout in goal.
The only crazy thing is worrying about it before it happens.