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Wild defenseman Matt Dumba embraces his side gig as a goal scorer

November 23, 2018

Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hasnt shared all of his personal expectations for the season, but after maintaining his hold on second place in NHL scoring among defensemen last Thursday with another tally, he revealed hed like to pace the pack.

And a week later, thats exactly what Dumba is doing a swift ascent amid a torrid start to the season that has underscored just how much of a dynamic presence Dumba is becoming for the Wild in the offensive zone.

Its fun, Dumba said. I think its sustainable if I just keep looking ahead and not try to do anything too tricked up or too special. Guys are kind of getting it to me more often and finding my wheelhouse.

After scoring twice in the 6-4 win over the Senators on Wednesday, Dumba had 10 goals which is not only tied for the most on the Wild but is more than any defenseman in the league has contributed so far.

He became just the sixth blue-liner since 1989-90 to bury 10 or more goals through his teams first 22 games, a rhythm that puts him within reach of a few Wild franchise records for a defenseman.

With 54 career goals, the 24-year-old is just one away from tying Brent Burns for the most in team history and seven shy of matching the 17 Burns put up in 2010-11 for the best single-season output.

And there are 60 games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

Hes going to score as long as he keeps shooting the puck and hitting the net, coach Bruce Boudreau said, because his shot is that good.

Dumba wired in a one-timer in the first period Wednesday for his fourth power-play goal of the season also most among NHL defenders before unleashing a wrist shot in the second. He flashed an elusiveness with his shot in 2017-18, when he established a career high in goals with 14, but better accuracy has headlined his attempts this season.

This improvement has culminated in a 13.9 shooting percentage, which is second among defensemen who have scored at least five goals and higher than Dumbas 8.6 percent career average. But a conversion rate like that is also indicative of astute shot selection, another area of Dumbas approach that seems to have evolved.

Everybody knows hes always had that shot, center Eric Staal said. Hes becoming smarter about where he sets himself up to give himself those looks. You need guys to make the plays, too, but you put yourself in position to let it go, and I think hes becoming smarter with decisionmaking as far as when to hammer it and when to not.

The left side seems to be a fruitful area for the righthanded Dumba, especially on the power play. And even though its becoming a predictable setup, he keeps converting like he did on his first goal Wednesday and last Saturday against the Sabres.

Overall, Dumba has scored five times during a five-game point streak thats tied for the longest of his career a run hell have the opportunity to extend Friday when the Wild hosts the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center for a matinee game.

They find their spots, Boudreau said. They get their shots down and as long as they hit the net, with the way it comes off the stick, its very hard for goalies to pick it up. If he can continue that, hell continue to have success.

And doing that would make this season a meaningful one for Dumba, more than it already is.

If I can get it to the net, usually itll create something, Dumba said. If its a goal, great. But if its an assist for other guys going to the net, thats pretty good, too.

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