DALLAS – Goalie Devan Dubnyk was on the bench for the Wild’s finale Saturday, backing up Alex Stalock for a second straight game. But how he finished the season isn’t how Dubnyk spent the majority of 2018-19.
Not only did he start seven more games than he did last season, but Dubnyk’s 67 appearances tied his career high — a workload that Dubnyk had no problem handling.
“I felt good,” Dubnyk said. “The most important thing is how your body holds up. That’s what you do work in the summer for and the maintenance stuff throughout the year to make sure you’re able to play. I’m fortunate that my body held up. I felt good.”
Dubnyk didn’t log more action than usual just by his standards; he was busy compared to other netminders around the league.
Ahead of Saturday’s games, Dubnyk’s 66 starts and 67 games were most in the NHL. He ranked fifth in shots against (1,877) and saves (1,714) and second in time on ice (3,855 minutes, 16 seconds). Overall, Dubnyk went 31-28-6 with a .913 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average.
“He responded well [to the action], especially down the stretch,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, who wanted to reward Stalock, a helpful understudy all season long, with these last two games. “If we could score some goals, we would have won a lot of those games that he was keeping teams to 1-0 and 2-1 and 2-1 in overtime and stuff like that. He was doing his job.”
That playoff push in the waning weeks of the season, especially the team’s season-high eight-game point streak in which Dubnyk started all but one game, was a highlight for the 32-year-old. So was making his third All-Star Game.
And if he has to play just as much next season, Dubnyk’s fine with it.
“I felt pretty good about things,” said Dubnyk, who plans to continue working on head tracking in the offseason. “The constant goal is to figure out what works best for you, figure out how to get that ever single night and then figure out how to get that to the highest level possible.”
Defenseman Brad Hunt skated as a forward on the fourth line against the Stars. Boudreau said Saturday morning that winger Pontus Aberg would fill out the unit because winger J.T. Brown was ill, but Aberg was scratched.
Hoping to stay
Although Hunt closed out the season at forward, a role he also fulfilled earlier in the season, he made a solid impression with his work on the blue line.
Before Saturday, he had been playing on the second pairing next to Jonas Brodin when the Wild was still vying for a playoff spot — a promotion, after playing sparingly with Vegas before the Golden Knights traded the 30-year-old in January.
“When you get a chance, you have to take advantage of it,” Hunt said. “That’s something that’s helped me stick around for a long time. I’ve always been in and out of lineups wherever I’ve been. You just make sure you’re ready when you get your chance to play. You take it and run with it.”
An unrestricted free agent this summer, Hunt would like to remain with the Wild.