ST. PAUL — Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk didn’t hide from the reality. He knows he wasn’t good enough this season and praised fellow goaltender Alex Stalock for putting the Wild in a position to make the postseason.
“I understood that (here was probably a good chance that he was going to get an opportunity,” Dubnyk said. “It would have been nice to get in there and play some playoff hockey. But I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. I thought Al played extremely well and deserved to give us a chance there.”
That said, Dubnyk still feels like he’s the best goaltender on the roster. That’s not a knock on Stalock or rookie Kaapo Kahkonen. Dubnyk simply believes he can get back to a high level of play that made him the unquestioned starter in the past.
“As much as people like to talk and create storylines in this, I think we can probably all agree that I didn’t forget how to stop the puck this season,” Dubnyk said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m very competitive and fully prepared to come into camp next year ready to get back to playing the majority of the games.”
It’s unclear what general manager Bill Guerin plans to do moving forward. There’s a chance he could make a move for a household name between the pipes. There’s also a chance he simply moves forward with guys on the current roster.
As far as Dubnyk is concerned, he’s expecting to have to compete for the job ahead of next season.
“That’s not a bad thing,” Dubnyk said. “I’ve always tried to keep that approach that I want to earn each start. Obviously, when I’m playing a lot, there’s a little more leeway. But I’ve always tried to approach it like I want to be starting games because I’m the best option to be in there and I’m giving the guys a chance to win.”
After missing the must-win Game 4, defenseman Ryan Suter confirmed it was because he injured his right foot by blocking a shot in Game 3.
“Nothing serious,” Suter said. “I should be fine.”
While he wouldn’t go into details, Suter told reporters that the injury was related to the surgery he had on his broken right ankle a couple of seasons ago. That’s why he proceeded with caution and ultimately sat out.
“After the game, to be around the guys is the worst feeling ever,” Suter said. “You just feel like you let them down. I hate missing games. I hate it because of that reason.”
For the Wild, maybe the biggest revelation from the series loss to Vancouver was the emergence of rookie Nico Sturm.
While he was surprisingly thrust into the lineup, and forced to play out of position, Sturm didn’t miss a beat on either end of the ice.
He was responsible with his defensive assignments and coach Dean Evason showed a massive amount of trust in him by sending him over the boards in some of the most important moments of the game.
“It makes me excited to see that the coaching staff knows that not only can I skate around and participate in a game, I can have a meaningful impact on the game,” Sturm said. “I’m not just some player filling a role out there. I can truly contribute to the success of the team.”
It also makes him excited for next season as he looks to lock down a permanent spot in the lineup.
“Yeah,” Sturm said. “That’s 100 percent my goal.”