Is there a book on Devan Dubnyk for Blackhawks to follow?

After besting one of the league's best goaltenders in Round 1, the Blackhawks have a new challenge awaiting them in the second round, as they face Devan Dubnyk.

While Pekka Rinne wasn't exactly the difference in the two losses that the Chicago Blackhawks suffered in their first round series against the Nashville Predators, you could make the argument that he was responsible for a couple of those tilts going as deep into the night as they did, particularly in the three overtime affair of Game 4. And while the Blackhawks are set to turn around and begin a second round series against the Minnesota Wild on Friday, it's not as if they're going to be facing anything resembling a simpler task between the pipes in Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk was one of the very best stories of the 2014-15 season. Originally signed to be the backup netminder for the Arizona Coyotes, Dubnyk found enough success in backing up Mike Smith during his miserable start that he was able to find his way to greener pastures, as the Coyotes shipped him to the Wild. Dubnyk immediately caught fire as the no. 1 guy for a team that needed that type of presence manning the crease, working his way from early season backup to Vezina Trophy finalist.

In saving a Wild team that came into the season with large expectations, Dubnyk established himself as perhaps the most dangerous goaltender in this year's playoffs, this side of Carey Price. Their numbers are similar, with Dubnyk going for a 2.07 GAA against Price's 1.96, and their save percentages separated by just .004, with Dubnyk at .929 and Price just ahead at .933.

That's significant because each represents a goaltender that was considered a favorite for not only the Vezina, but also the Hart Trophy as a potential league MVP as well. That fact helps to illustrate how integral Dubnyk has been to the success of this Wild team this season, in addition to demonstrating why the Blackhawks should be weary of his presence heading into their matchup with the Wild in Round 2 of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blackhawks were no exception to Dubnyk's victimization of the rest of the NHL. When he arrived, the Blackhawks had gone for a 3-0 record against the Wild, scoring 13 goals across those games. After Dubnyk arrived, the Hawks lost each of their remaining pair of games against Minnesota, with the netminder stopping 56 of 57 shots through those two.

It's a massive undertaking, no doubt, as the Blackhawks try and get past a player that is as singularly responsible for his team being in the playoffs as any player on any team in the National Hockey League. Is that high praise? Absolutely. Does it mean that the Blackhawks won't be able to get the job done when the time comes? Absolutely not. This is the same team that has victimized "all-world" goaltender Jonathan Quick in past postseason appearances.

So just how do the Blackhawks attack Devan Dubnyk, then? After all, you're talking about a goaltender that surrendered more than three goals just a single time following his trade to the Wild.

As such, if the Blackhawks were looking for a focal point to shoot at, it isn't going to be the easiest of tasks. As small as the sample size against the St. Louis Blues was, and it becomes smaller when you consider that the Blues were shutout once and scored just one goal twice, it does give at least a bit of insight as to where the Blackhawks may want to attack Dubnyk: down low.

A large goaltender at 6'6", the Blues were able to find the majority of their success low against Dubnyk. Throughout the series, Dubnyk allowed a total of 13 goals in six games. Of those 13 goals, six came low, four of which were low glove side. The others were a mix of deflections and a couple of goals that ended up over his left shoulder. A couple of Patrick Kane backhand specials could do the trick there.

The following, via Sporting Charts, represents how, and where, teams have found the back of the net against Dubnyk this season:


There isn't anything here out of the ordinary. The majority of the goals that Dubnyk has allowed throughout the year came down around the net. Which means that the Blackhawks are going to have to create traffic around Dubnyk constantly. They did a decent enough job of that against Pekka Rinne. When they are firing shots from a distance, testing him low could be an early option, as the Blues did find some success against him there, as limited as their offensive opportunities were, especially as he locked it down in Games 5 & 6.

Overall, Dubnyk is obviously going to represent a tremendous challenge for the Blackhawks. Rinne may be a more established goaltender, with a more elite skill set, but he looked uncomfortable at times in the series and the Blackhawks were able to take advantage of it. This is a different situation, as they're up against a netminder that is as hot as anyone in the league, particularly in his last couple of games against the Blues.

Is it a tall task? Absolutely. Is it an insurmountable one? Of course not. We've seen the Blackhawks have success against upper tier goaltenders in the playoffs. Of course, it's important to note that they'll be matching up against a Wild team that suppresses shots very effectively, and is healthy, unlike their previous opponents. This series should feel very similar to last year's, in which the Wild made things very difficult for the Hawks. It's not a stretch to say that this could be their toughest opponent remaining in these playoffs.

The bottom line is this: Maintain possession in the offensive zone. Lay off the dump and chase. Create traffic around Devan Dubnyk, while also focusing shots low on him (and preferably glove side). It's a relatively obvious formula, but if the Hawks can follow it, they should be able to find some success against the suddenly intimidating Minnesota Wild.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.