Devan Dubnyk’s SV% had improved during his first three NHL seasons. His first season he had a .910, then 9.14 and last year he finished with a .920SV%, but this year in 29 games with the Oilers his SV%, .896, and his overall play took a huge dip.

What happened? I asked him.

I don’t know, but I had the chance to talk with Dubnyk about his recent trade to Nashville and what went wrong this season.

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Jason Gregor: Did this trade surprise you, or did you sense that something was coming? 

Devan Dubnyk: It was surprising. I think that it was a disappointing year and it had been for everybody there [in Edmonton]. You know, you accept the possibility that a trade will happen, but it doesn’t really matter it still doesn’t prepare you. 

I’m sure if it had started to get closer to the deadline, obviously everybody starts to get a little more tense and waits for something to happen, but I certainly didn’t expect that in Minnesota. It was a strange day, it’s’ still a little bit surreal to me.

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I didn’t know that there was an opportunity to come play here [Nashville] and come to this group. I’m very excited to do it.

Gregor: I was looking at your numbers. The three previous years, your save percentage was 0.910, 0.914 and last year 0.920. You really struggled out of the gate this year. Looking back, what happened at the start of the year? Was there more internal pressure from you, pressure from the organization, or was it just a funk?

Dubnyk: It might have been a little bit of all of that. I think that there was a little bit of pressure on everybody.  I think that we had high expectations. I know that I had high expectations on myself and us as a group.  

If you look at the games, those first four games of the year were… were disastrous, almost real tough to come back from starting the year that way, stats wise. You kind of work your way back into it and it just seemed like the off nights were more often than usual. It was frustrating. It was one of those times. But I’ve felt that I’ve gotten better, played better over the last couple of months, but it’s my job to find a way out of it, especially now that I’m with a new opportunity here. 

I’m excited and looking forward to getting back to the level that I was at and also exceeding that level going forward. 

Gregor: Everybody has theories when someone struggles; talk radio, media, fans. Everybody has a theory. Some people suggested that the smaller pads and the shorter goal stick impacted you. Any truth? 

Dubnyk: I don’t think so. If pucks were trickling through my five-hole from bad angles all of the time, then I guess you could suggest that. But to be honest, now after wearing them I don’t remember what the old ones felt like. The pads feel like pads I’ve worn my whole life. You get used to them. 

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So I mean yeah it was an adjustment, it was different when I first put them on at the start of the year, but it was different for everybody. I’m certainly not going to look to that as an excuse for some struggles at the start of the year. Like I said, every goalie in the league had to change, so there is no reason why mine would be any different than anybody else’s.  


Gregor: This year there was a lot of shots beating you up high. Sean Burke mentioned ‘when a tall guy doesn’t play tall, he is wasting the advantage of his size.’ Were teams shooting more above your shoulders, did you change anything from last year? How do you explain all of the shots upstairs? 

Dubnyk: No I didn’t change anything. When there is an opportunity to go upstairs, that’s where players shoot in the NHL. It doesn’t matter who’s in net, that’s where they’re going to look to go. Sean Burke is exactly right, you want to use the size to your advantage but you have to play big and you have to play positional to get that. 

We changed a lot of things (defensively) at the start of the year. I think that it was a change for everybody and I was having a tough time finding the puck sometimes and reading the play just with different things going on. And when that happens, you’re not finding the puck, or you feel that you can’t track it down then you end up leaving your feet early and you end up going down, just to go down.

Almost every goalie nowadays is going to go down on 99% of the shots just to make the save. But it’s going down into the save and when you’re not finding the puck and tracking it real well, well then you end up going down just to go down and that’s when things start to get by you upstairs.  

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Gregor: When you say that you are not tracking the puck well, was that due to the change in defence, guys were in the lane more, or were you not picking it up as quickly as you had in previous years? 

Dubnyk: I mean there is no reason why I all of the sudden wouldn’t be able to track the puck [laughs] the same way. It was an adjustment for all of us, we’d been playing a certain way, but that’s why they brought Dallas [Eakins] in; to change things. But there’s a certain adjustment period, and you start thinking about what’s going on and it’s about picking up pucks through sticks, through bodies, through feet, through shin pads, that’s all a part of playing goal. And sometimes when you’re struggling a bit, you have a tougher time finding it, that’s a part of playing goal. You have to find it; you have to find a way to look around and look through or over top or underneath and find a way to see the puck on the guys stick. And when you don’t, you’re in trouble.  

Gregor: Confidence is huge for any athlete in any sport. For goal scorers you go six or seven games and you don’t score, they all admit that they’re confidence wanes. Then they get one goal and suddenly they get their confidence back. As a goalie you are always facing shots, so when you lose your confidence, how do you get it back? 

Dubnyk: Just working. You need to know, you need to trust in what you’re doing and just come back to certain things to concentrate on to help you get that confidence back. There is a lot of pressure, a lot going on and a lot to think about. If you start losing confidence you start to think about all of these things and every situation on the ice and you’re thinking, thinking, thinking. The easiest way to get it is back is take a few things that you know you have to do and really just concentrate on those things and work hard to find the puck and it will come back to you.  

I’ve always said that you don’t necessarily have to be perfect every night, or get a shutout every night, but you have to be able to give the guys a chance to win on nights that you don’t necessarily feel at your best. In an 82-game season there are going to be those games and those times that you have to come back to those things that work for you and find a way to get hit by pucks.

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Gregor: Last summer Craig MacTavish said about you as a starter, “If you have to ask the question then you know the answer.’ Did you feel like you had to re-prove yourself to the organization? Did those comments weigh on you at all and was that a factor in your play this year? 

Dubnyk: When you get new management and a new coach, there is always going to be a period of time where you need to show them what you can do. Yes it was frustrating, and I felt like over the three years before that I was growing into a starting role and I had done so the season before.  

Looking back on it now, I’m not going to lie and say that it wasn’t a frustrating situation this summer. I think that it would be ridiculous to pretend that it wasn’t, but that’s a part of the sport and I really wanted to go out there and show them otherwise. Like I said it’s upsetting that it didn’t work out that way.  

I told them that I wanted to a part of that group going forward and as the year went on, it looked like that wasn’t going to be the case. I’m grateful for the opportunity I got here with a great group of guys.  

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Gregor: I’m sure that you look at the big picture. Pekka Rinne is the starter, he’s got a five-year contract and you had mentioned earlier that you had thought that you were moving forward to be a starter. Do you feel that these next three months will be an opportunity for you to audition as a pending UFA and likely sign somewhere else where you can have a chance to be a true starter? 

Dubnyk: Absolutely. It’s a great opportunity for me to play games, and get back on track; get back on the track that I was on before. It’s an opportunity to push for the playoffs here. Watching this group, I don’t see any reason why we can’t and to get an opportunity to be a part of that and to help this team to make a playoff push is really exciting and it’s easy to just focus on that going forward.  

And like you say, obviously with Peks, he’s one of the best goalies in the world so they are going to want him back as soon as he can be back, but for the time being I’m excited to be a part of this group and that’s just what I’ve got to concentrate on for now.  

Gregor: I know that sometimes we forget about the personal side. You and your wife had a baby boy just before the season. How difficult is it being a new dad and now suddenly you’re going to be separated for a while? 

Dubnyk: That’s really the tough part. Obviously the opportunity and coming to a new team, it’s exciting, but it is tough enough being away from them on the road, never mind when halfway through the trip I’m gone for the immediate future going forward. That’s something that you go through. Obviously my wife was a little bit upset. She’s very excited at the opportunity and we both know that it’s a great chance for me, but obviously just the shock of it all has been tough on her. She’s excited to get out here and we’re coming out to Edmonton pretty quickly, so then she and the little man are going to make their way out here. It will all work out. You stick together and that’s what’s important.

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I respect that Dubnyk admitted MacT’s comments had an impact o his play. He could have given the expected answer, "No, you block that out," but he told the truth. Confidence plays a major role in any athlete’s success, and from the start of the season Dubnyk never looked comfortable.

He might need an entire summer away from the game to regain his confidence. We’ll see.

Trading Dubnyk didn’t clear up the Oilers goaltending future, and likely just muddied it a bit more with the arrival of Ben Scrivens.

Is Scrivens starter material?

Well, if you have to ask the question then we probably know the answer. I do think Scrivens will get every opportunity to play himself into a new contract with the Oilers, but only as either part of a goalie tandem or as the backup.

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  • Slapshot

    Well it seems he took the comments from MacT quite personal and that it may have cost this team 4-5 wins as his head never got over it.

    Do you think his problem is mental and not fundamentals?

    He’s going to be lucky to get a #2 spot for next year at this pace.

    • WeSelectEkblad

      I’m a goalie myself so I can relate to this. Having a coach (or GM in this case) add expectations and pressure can be detrimental in the short term depending on the type of person you are and how you respond to said pressure. I feel bad for the guy, I hope he can turn things around in Nashville (not when they play us though) because I believe he is a great goalie and has the ability to be. This opportunity puts a lot less pressure on him because obviously there is no way he or anyone else will ever gain a starting position over Rinne so he doesn’t have the pressure of playing for a starting position. That said it will be important for his future in this league however I’m sure he won’t focus on that to much. Lastly he needs to work on his mental game or else he may falter under future pressure or anything of a playoff run he briefly mentioned. So yes I think the problem is mental not skill based or fundamental aspects of his technical game. Mental game goes hand and hand with tracking the puck!

    • Spydyr

      On paper their defense this year is no worse than last year. It’s 100% coaching. Perhaps also sprinkle in MacT’s befuddled look at the draft when the Schneider trade was annouced. Anyone, including DD, could see his time in Edm was done. He was never the same.

  • Slapshot

    I think MacT dug himself his own hole with this mess. He should have used that pick shopping at the draft to get a defenseman first but instead went after the goaltender that wasn’t truly needed at the time. Between his comments about Dubnyk and then failing to acquire Schneider, it was a pretty good way to tell Dubnyk he was out of a job without being out of a job. If MacT had that little faith, he should have traded him in the summer. It would be certainly bold to trade your only NHL caliber goaltender in the system but we all know MacT’s Bold-O-Meter’s kind of broken so…

  • Slapshot

    Wow, I didn’t think Eakins systems in the D-zone would have such a tumultuous effect. No wonder the forwards and D are struggling. I wish we could get a similar exit interview from Smid or the next forward to get shipped out. Sounds like there is definite distrust of the coach and systems.

  • Muji

    Very cool for Dubnyk to do this interview. Hard not to wish him well in Nashville. With that said, I’ll probably feel better if he stinks it up down there 🙂

  • Muji

    Wow. Gregor certainly doesn’t go easy in his interviews! Great job asking what’s on all of our minds.

    Dubby’s answers were a little wishy-washy and canned, but he did open the kimono a bit on some (e.g. MacT’s comments over the summer).

    I like Dub and wish him well, but he was awful this year. MacT could not risk bringing him back next year. Additionally, he should not have felt safe as a starter going into the season (or going into the summer). His stats have been good the last 3 years, but there’s more than save percentage to being a defacto #1. Hopefully, Dub can figure it out. Hate to say it, but his poor start will likely set his career back quite a bit.

  • Muji

    What happen to Dobie? Bold move means buy high sell low and too many defence men front of him, who should be playing forward. Plus quick to get to his knee as he is proposing to a woman.

  • Muji

    I found his comments about Eakins’ new system interesting. He blamed it for his poor start but did not elaborate when you pressed him about it.

    So he either:
    1. Blamed it just cause (I.e. he was speaking in cliches) and naturally couldn’t explain it any further; or
    2. He really was blaming Eakins, but checked himself and chose not to elaborate or get into specifics with you.

    What did you think, Jason?

    • Jason Gregor

      I’m not sure why the system, attack two guys to puck carrier would have led to him struggling. It wasn’t like the system asked for guys to collapse to the net and he was being screened.

      He said he wasn’t reading the puck well early on, and mainly I think his confidence took a major hit. He was honest about MacT’s comments and I think a lot of his struggles were between the ears.

      The mental part of the game can wear guys down quickly.

      My main question is where was his goalie coach? Not one goalie has improved under Chabot. My early prediction is that he won’t return next year.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        you know, i noticed that as well, that not one single goalie has improved under Chabot as the “goalie coach”. he’d bloody well not be returning next year! if someone get’s fired it should be him! never did like him.

      • S cottV

        Dubnyk wasn’t entirely forthright on comments about the swarm defensive system.

        2 guys on the puck carrier isnt a problem, if the puck carrier is securely pinned to the boards without options by #1 and #2 picks up the loose puck, with time, space and support to move it out of the d zone.

        Problem is – that NHL speed and skill makes it very hard to get the secure pin to the boards, particularly when the Oilers have smaller – softer d men and low support centremen. The puck carrier retains options – Oilers commit 2 players to him and the opposition skill level works the puck to the invariably wide open man and what then leads to a clear cut scoring chance on our goaltenders.

        Once the puck makes it to the wide open man who is usually the back side d man on the point, all sorts of panic running around our d zone occurs, in an attempt to frantically reel back in – the lost time and space. If the opposition gets an immediate clear cut scoring chance they take it, but if not – they simply work the gift time and space around, until our guys get dead tired and collapse to the net like pylons, creating vision problems for the goaltender.

  • Devolution

    You really have to like the guy and wish him well. It would have been easy for him to blame, blame, and blame, but he didn’t. He took responsibility and owned up to his failings.

    Good guy.

  • Muji

    Dubnyk needed to accept responsibility for his poor performance for many of his games. Along with that, I think Eakins is a big reason for everyones dismal year . Eakins seems to be confused by his own system, because he keeps changing it. There is no doubt that MacT also got in Dubnyks’ head too. When he spoke to the media, and said the jury was still out on Dubnyk, and then was actively shopping for a goalie in the off season, I would imagine that would have a negative effect on his psyche. Good luck to Dubby in Music City, and I hope he ends up behind a good defence.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Am I the only one who finds save percentage a completely useless stat? It reminds me of the days when we’d judge a goalie purely on wins and GAA.
    You can save 40 shots in a game, but if you give up a stinker in the last minute in a tie game when the pressure is really on, then you blew it.

    Not all shots are created equal. Many good teams allow shots from the outside, but never give up grade-A chances. The Oilers are obviously the opposite.

    For me, the things that matter when judging a goalie aren’t really measurable statistically: reflexes, speed getting across, ability to read the puck and control rebounds, confidence, and more than anything the ability to excel under pressure.
    I don’t see the point in mentioning GAA or save% when comparing goalies but I’m aware that others might disagree.

  • S cottV

    A GM or Coach needs to read a player and be right most of the time, with respect to what is said about a particular player or to a particular player – to influence for better performance.

    No point saying anything if a chance it does more harm than good, so you have to be very very careful.

    To blow the read on your #1 goaltender, going into the season – is one you would kick yourself in the @ss about.

    Like some others – I have posted my disdain for the Eakins swarm, since the start of the season. It was plain and simple a [email protected] move that cost the team at least 10 points by Nov 15, at which point they were effectively out of the playoffs.

    The perfect storm that JS wrote about – dumped itself mostly on Dubnyks head.

    The Oilers have to change the run and gun culture and make goaltender support a major priority. Otherwise – it really doesn’t matter who is in the net.

  • S cottV

    Yea if I reading between the lines, Dubnyk basically said that the new defensive system is what started the season off on a wrong footing for everyone, including goaltending.

    We went from playing an energetic system under Krueger ……..a system that obviously catered to our offence oriented players and produced a good PP, PK, and average to good 5 on 5.

    We are now playing a system that relies on defense first……..a system that has deteriorated our PP, PK, and very poor 5 on 5.

    I just waiting for the players to learn this new age uber intellectual system that has turned our stars into cow patties.

    Well at least they know how to carry water and not eat donuts!

    • I’m encountering the convenient narrative that “special teams was better under Krueger” a lot.

      The reality is that the shooting percentages and save percentages were unsustainably high, and a smart bet would have put money on them coming back down to reality.

      Not only did they swing back to reality, but they passed it doing 140 going the wrong way on the highway and flew into the coulees.

      Once again, a smart bet is a rebound for the better next year.

      For those interested, look up something called “PDO”.

  • S cottV

    Nice to see Dubby being honest about the MacT stuff. I thought it was incredibly stupid at the time. Goalies are generally flakey dudes and you never know what can set them off. MacT’s desire for a sound bite was a risk not worth taking.

  • Jason Gregor

    The saying goes that sports is 99% mental. How could it not effect Dubnyk when the boss replies with “if you have to ask”.

    It’s not just Dubnyk that’s playing without confidence on the Oilers, it’s most of the team.

    No swagger. No confidence. Afraid to screw up. It shows.


    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Personally, I didn’t mind MacT’s comments. He was being honest, and really, it was basically a challenge to Dubnyk: that he wasn’t sure if Dubnyk was a legitimate starter, and the time had come for him to prove himself. Goalies have to prove themselves all the time, it’s the nature of their position.

      Some goalies would accept this added pressure and prove their worth as a starter, and some won’t. MacT got his answer 5 games in: that Dubnyk can’t handle the pressure of the NHL.

      If MacT’s comments messed with his mind to the point of collapse, imagine how he’d feel during a game 7 OT.

      • WeSelectEkblad

        Anything can set a goalie off, because the nature of the position comes with the most pressure of any position in any sport. It is also the most difficult position mentally and is not easy on the body either!

        If a forward screws up, the D have to handle it, if the D screw up the Goalie has to handle it and if the goalie screws up well… line up at center boys. Try adding more, unneccesary pressure to that. Not many goalies can put added pressure aside, that is why the “Elite Goalie” bracket is so small in the league. Your team needs a starting goalie, not an elite goalie to win. A good team can win with a starting goalie, which is what Dubnyk was. The thing with these goalies is they wont win games all by them selves as elite goalie may well do games at a time. Most NHL goalies can put aside the pressure of a game 7 and focus but its the idea of proving themselves as a starter when you thought you already kinda were the starter that can mess with a goalies head. “Crap they just scored, I might have just lost my job!” meanwhile they score again and you slowly become more mentally exhausted and frustrated. A goalie who knows his place can forget a goal and move on without a second thought. MacT simply does not understand the mechanics of the position and definitely not the pressure associated.

        ~It is a horrible idea to add weight to one side of a delicately balanced scale without adding to the otherside.

        In other words, give back the confidence in which the pressure takes away.

  • What happened to Dubnyk is that he became a father and his priorities changed. He comes across as a really nice guy and it is my belief that he is trying his best to be an NHL dad and be there for his child. Of course these guys are professional athletes but they are people too just like anyone of us.

    I know when I had each of my children, I was lacking sleep and focus at work. My attention at work was to get the job done as best as I could but it is hard to focus as a new dad.

    Some guys don’t really care about their children or spend time with them so they might not be as affected as a guy that cares.

    In the end Dubnyk is an NHL goalie for now but ultimately he is a father for life and the early years of your children are years you want to enjoy.

    He probably isn’t going to remember a few weak goals he let in but I bet he will sure remember the first sounds his child makes, the first day they crawl or walk…it is just priorities for the guy. In a very short time he will automatically adjust as a parent and be one of the top goalies in league, you just watch.

    It was too bad to see him go. I would have preferred that if he couldn’t do the job, get a number 1 or a better 1a/1b type goalie and let them decide who plays the most by their play on the ice.

    • Muji

      “He probably isn’t going to remember a few weak goals he let in but I bet he will sure remember the first sounds his child makes…”

      I’m pretty sure he’s going to remember the weak goals he let in. Those goals caused the Oilers to trade him to a new team. He now works in a new city/country, works with an entirely new team, etc. Additionally, his contract status for next year is totally up in the air: both in terms of financials and in terms of teams.

      If Dubnyk had a solid start for us, he’s likely looking at a 3-4 year $4M-$5M per year contract extension that solidifies himself as a #1 NHL starter. Instead, he’s now going to have to finish the year well with the Preds to give himself a shot at a 1-2 year $2M per year contract with a team that will probably use him as a 1B or backup. That SUCKs.

      • Muji

        Playing in the NHL the players recognize that they could be traded at any time and that their careers can be really quite short. They realize contracts are based on performance in last year of contract.

        I am talking about the big picture when he is looking back on life in general. Hockey is important but whatever your job is, usually doesn’t take priority over his family.

  • I wonder if it was “the new system” in the sense that he’s concentrating on what the players in front of him are doing or not doing and not concentrating on keeping an eye on the puck.

    You know, like the play develops and for a split second he’s wondering why so and so isn’t swarming properly and boom shot comes in and whammo!

    So many times he looked exasperated after a goal against..but not at himself..it was like a “WTF GUYS!?” reaction.

  • Dubnyk stated re the situation in Nashville

    “It’s an opportunity to push for the playoffs here. Watching this group, I don’t see any reason why we can’t”

    No rational person could say the same about the Oil. One could interpret this as saying the Preds are a much better team than the Oil. There would appear to be a big gap between the Oil and even obvious non playoff teams.

  • 50 in 39

    Devan seems like a good guy and I wish him luck but I don’t believe he will ever be quality starting goaltender in the NHL.

    Goalies need to be able to track pucks. You do not have months to get back on track.

    Goalies need to be mentally tough. I know confidence can be hurt but you must overcome.

    Can you imagine Dubnyk’s reaction to getting shelled in a playoff game. (purely theoretical of course)

    The Oiler’s future goaltending picture might be bleak but it is less muddied without Dubnyk. He is not the guy and it was time to move on.

  • clrsnldvc81

    Saturday January 18 versus Colorado

    – They jumped on Nashville (21-22-7) for three quick goals in the first period, spoiling the Predators debut of goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired on Wednesday in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. Dubnyk finished with 24 saves but trailed 3-0 12:05 into the game.

    Holden scored his second of the game at 2:31 of the third period with a slap shot that trickled through Dubnyk’s left pad. Four minutes later, Duchene made it 5-1 when he fired from a steep angle and his shot went between Dubnyk’s back and the post.

    Dude was down 3-0 in front of a “better” top 6 d-man corp… and then in the third he let in two softies early in the third… sounds like a case of “same ol-same ol”

    Dubnyk = early goals allowed which totally deflates your team and key saves not being made in the final 20 to keep your team in it…

  • Serious Gord

    In nature there is the axiom “fight or flight”. It refers to what species do in reaction to a threat or other external stress.

    In humans this can be seen as differing between individuals: some people take flight – retreat, cower – others fight back – taking aggressive confrontational action.

    The great goalies all were fighters – attacking the puck or puck carrier – sacrificing themselves to stop the puck.

    Dubnyk is not one of them

    Watching him play over the years he always seemed to flinch – pulling his elbows inward – making himself smaller – not larger – leaning back in his net rather than leaning forward and cutting down the angle on the too corners.

    Compare his physical actions to those of quick or fleury and I think you will see what I mean.

    And I don’t think I’m alone in seeing it – but apparently much of oilers management and a significant number of fans didn’t.

  • Visually McDavid

    I always really liked Duby – he was improving every year and I bought into the idea that he was part of a future so bright they’d eventually be handing out shades at the doors of Rexall.

    Apparently Mac T didn’t share this vision so his first order of business was to talk smack about his existing goaltender before having a replacement firmly in place. Oiler logic is a helluva a thing.

    Going after Schneider was admirable (two solid goalies is better than one), but was it necessary to burn Duby’s confidence to the ground in the process? Is the Oiler’s mission statement “Always count all of your chickens before a single one has hatched”?

    All that being said I know that with the situation being what it was Duby had to go and I hope he kills it with the Preds.

    Going forward at least now we know that neither Mac T, nor Eakins, can ever call out another player for their on ice performance since the Oilers view this type of criticism as an illegitimate personal attack. I will await their joint open letter in defense of Yak though…

  • Muji

    To those complaining that MacT destroyed Duby’s confidence during the summer with his remarks and his Schneider-hunt, look at what happened in Toronto.

    The Leafs acquired Bernier to supplement Reimer. You can argue that Reimer deserved the starter’s job to himself after last year’s solid play, but there’s little doubt that the Leafs made a great trade and that Bernier has been exceptional. Reimer has also continued to play very well.

  • MattyFranchise

    He spends the off season working with the same goalie coach as Pekka Rinne, we’re going to see a new Dubnyk before the season ends. Maybe when the next season starts. Similar size, he’s going to learn a lot.