Boudreau looking at ‘whole lot of different things’ to get Wild back on track
ST. PAUL -- Devan Dubnyk stayed on the ice longer than any of his teammates Saturday, Feb. 16, facing more practice shots and spending quality time with goaltending coach Bob Mason as he tries to climb out the hole he dug for himself the previous night.
The extra work does not ensure that Dubnyk will be back in the net for the Minnesota Wild in Sunday’s pivotal Central Division game against the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center. After his performance in a 5-4 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Friday, it would not be surprising if the duty fell to backup Alex Stalock.
Coach Bruce Boudreau would not tip his hand, at least not publicly.
“There are a whole lot of different things that I’m looking at,” he said after practice at TRIA Rink. “We’ll see what transpires tomorrow.”
Boudreau relies on the expertise of Mason, a longtime NHL goaltender who can break down Dubnyk’s game and determine where his charge is mentally.
“He’ll let me know who he feels should be in,” Boudreau. “Then it’s my decision whether I go with that decision or a gut feeling. The call’s mine. I can get advice from a myriad of people, but I have to make the call.”
Porous goaltending and blown leads plagued the Wild in home losses this week to Philadelphia and New Jersey. Minnesota coughed up leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-1 against the Devils, and Dubnyk was the obvious goat after he allowed two long-range goals in regulation, then turned over the puck to set up the overtime winner.
The letdown gnawed at Dubnyk overnight before he answered another round of questions about it.
“It stings because you feel like you let the guys down when they played a really good game start to finish,” he said. “It’s not a good feeling. I really haven’t had that for a while. Usually, I find it easy to throw games (behind me) and not think about it after. That was definitely a tough one to swallow.”
The Wild need Dubnyk to regain his confidence if they expect to stay in playoff position despite their 1-4-3 record since the bye. Defenseman Ryan Suter was not about to point any fingers at his goaltender.
“I think you win or lose as a team,” he said. “Nobody has played great. I think we all have to be better. Yeah, he’d probably like to have some of those back, but he’s made some big saves, too. We have to find ways to help him when things aren’t going well and take some of that pressure off.”
The pressure is building on the Wild as they stagnate in the standings. Although they have not fallen out of playoff position, they’re hanging by a thread.
Dallas and St. Louis already have surpassed them in the Central. Entering play, Vancouver was one point behind Minnesota while surging Chicago was tied with Colorado three points back in the wild-card race.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said Suter. “Everybody has to be at the top of their game. We haven’t played bad, we just haven’t found ways to win games. For us it’s finishing teams off.”
Winger Marcus Foligno noted Minnesota still controls its own destiny.
“We’re not waiting for other teams to lose,” he said. “We’ve got to start winning now. If we do that, we’re in a good position. We’ve got to catch the teams ahead of us. It’s got to start tomorrow with a big game against St. Louis.”
The Blues had won eight straight and nine out of 10 before facing the Blackhawks Saturday night. St. Louis will have one game in hand come Sunday.
In November, the Wild twice defeated the Blues in St. Louis by a combined score of 8-3. That was when Minnesota was on a 10-2 run while the Blues were mired in a 6-9-3 skid to start the season.
“To our divisional race, it’s vital; it’s a big game,” said Boudreau. “That’s why you play hockey, for these games. You either embrace it and say ‘I can’t wait for this,’ or you’re afraid of it. We hope guys are embracing them.”