Devan Dubnyk is the Masterton Trophy nominee for the Minnesota Wild for a reason; with the team’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks courtesy of him in net, the Central Division franchise clinched their berth in the 2014-2015 NHL Playoffs.
Considering where the team was back in January, this is nothing short of a miracle.
The victory over Chicago places the Wild in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot with 98 points (although they spent a brief period ahead of the Blackhawks at the end of March, Chicago re-gained control of the third place spot in the Central). Even if Los Angeles wins both of their next games, they would have to see either Calgary or Winnipeg lose both of theirs in order to see a playoff berth. Even if all three of Winnipeg, Calgary, and Los Angeles win both of their final two games — and Minnesota loses both of theirs — the Wild now have enough leverage over the other three playoff ‘bubble’ teams to hold on to at least one of the two Wild Card spots. At this point, the Kings have no way to knock Minnesota out of the post-season.
Although the Wild certainly helped themselves with the victory Tuesday night, though, they have a few other franchises to thank for helping push them into the post-season. By defeating the Kings 4-2, the Edmonton Oilers guaranteed that the defending Stanley Cup champions cannot possibly earn enough points to surpass Minnesota’s totals — and the schedule over the next handful of days ensures that the hypothetical ‘Calgary, Winnipeg, and Los Angeles all win their next two games’ scenario is impossible, as the Kings play the Flames later this week.
The way things have played out make it all but certain that Devan Dubnyk is going to be seeing a hefty raise this summer, and likely from the Wild themselves. The question, though, is what the Wild will do about the second goaltender position.
It’s possible to see starting goaltenders go out during the post-season. The Montreal Candiens, who saw Carey Price held out of the remainder of their post-season appearances last spring with a knee injury, know this all too well; even the Wild, who lost Darcy Kuemper during their playoff run last year, can attest to this. The way that Dubnyk has been playing — the netminder has made nearly forty consecutive starts in 2015 — could weaken him enough to make him more susceptible to injury. The option to start either Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom in any games during the post-season, though, seems a little on the risky side.
Of course, with two games technically theirs to lose if they so wish… the Wild could potentially start one of their other two netminders before the season’s end.