After a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night, the Minnesota Wild have won a franchise-record nine road games in a row and they are 23-6-2 over their last 31 games. That two month-plus run has coincided with the acquisition of goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14, and he was on top of his game again with 35 saves Monday night.
The Wild are fairly well entrenched in a playoff spot with nine regular season games to go, and some other more recent acquisitions have added some much-needed depth as injuries have hit. But Dubnyk has clearly been the driving force for Minnesota’s successful stretch run, while likely saving head coach Mike Yeo’s job along the way.
I think Dubnyk belongs firmly in the conversation to win the Hart Trophy, which honors the player in the league that is judged to be most valuable to his team each season. Dubnyk fits that definition perfectly, considering the instability the Wild had between the pipes prior to his arrival this season.
The last goaltender to win the Hart Trophy was Jose Theodore when he was with the Montreal Canadiens in 2001-2002, and prior to that Dominik Hasek won the award in back-to-back seasons (1996-97 and 1997-98) with the Buffalo Sabres. That’s the only three times a goaltender has won the Hart Trophy since Jacques Plante did it in 1961-62, and also working against Dubnyk is another goalie (Carey Price of the Canadiens) that is a sure-fire nominee for the award. Price is clearly a worthy candidate for the Hart Trophy, as the league-leader in wins (40), goals against-average (1.86) and save percentage (.938), along with a tied for league-high nine shutouts, but two goaltenders potentially vying for votes won’t help end the position’s drought of Hart Trophy winners.
Dubnyk is at best a dark horse to win the Hart Trophy, and Price will probably take home the Vezina Trophy, given each year to the league’s top goalie. But a surprise could always happen, and Dubnyk fits the literal criteria to be the NHL’s Most Valuable Player for this season.
Brad Berreman is a Columnist and Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.