Jim Souhan
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In hockey, the best sports psychologist is a good goalie.

By standing on his head, Devan Dubnyk has cleared the cobwebs and poltergeists from his teammates'.

Dubnyk hasn't merely played well, which might not have been good enough to save a team that was seemingly hopeless a month ago. He has become the rising tide that lifts all Wild employees.

Bad defensive shift? Dubnyk makes the big save. Bad bounce off the boards? Dubnyk smothers it like Kanye West at Beck's Grammy party. Dangerous power play? Dubnyk swallows the puck, refusing to give up a rebound.

With Dubnyk's large frame filling the net, the Wild has again become the team it was early this season, when it treated the puck like a possession rather than an object with free will. Thursday night, Minnesota beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 to continue its climb in the Western Conference standings, thanks to the recipient of all those new "Dooob'' chants at the Xcel Energy Center.

All saves are not created equal. A goalie can make a save while looking shaky, damaging the confidence of his defensemen and coach. A goalie can make a save and allow a dangerous rebound. Dennis Rodman would have trouble getting a rebound off Dubnyk.

His saves are like neck massages.

What's strange is that this calming goalie is brought to you by a frantic GM.

Chuck Fletcher's management style could be best described as hyperactive.

When he became the general manager of the Wild, he frantically tried to rebuild the big-league roster and the franchise's farm system simultaneously. He has saved his most frenetic scrambling for this winter and last winter.

In each, Fletcher has made a trade for a goalie hardly considered a savior. Each time he has threaded the needle — acquiring a goalie good enough to salvage the season without giving up high-level assets.

Last year, Fletcher brought in Ilya Bryzgalov, who had earned a reputation as sometimes goofy, sometimes unreliable and always bizarre. Fletcher dealt a fourth-round draft pick, and Bryzgalov performed better than anyone had any right to expect, and helped the Wild make the playoffs.

This season Fletcher traded for Devan Dubnyk, a large, talented goalie who had failed in his one attempt to to work as an NHL starter. Dubnyk, acquired for a third-round draft pick, has exceeded all reasonable expectations.

He has calmed a panicked team, allowing the Wild to go on a near-historic run of success that has pulled it to within a few points of a playoff spot, just a month after the team seemed hopelessly buried in the Western Conference standings.

Fletcher has again accomplished the improbable: compensated for his willingness to gamble at the goalie position by acquiring a season-saver for a reasonable asset, just in time.

"He's been so important to the turnaround that we've had this year,'' Zach Parise said. "The lack of rebounds, I think that's been really important, and when there are rebounds, our 'D' are clearing it. There haven't been a lot of point-shot scrambles. That's our 'D' boxing out, too. It's both. But, when the puck hits him, it feels like it's sticking, which helps a lot.''

In nine of his 12 starts with the Wild, Dubnyk has allowed two or fewer goals. His record with Minnesota: 9-1-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage.

"It makes everyone feel better when there is not chaos in front of the net,'' he said.

Is Dubnyk on his way to becoming a beloved Minnesota sports character?

"I guess I don't know him well enough to classify him as a character,'' Parise said. "He's pretty quiet. But he's different. You play with so many goalies who you can't talk to on a game day. He's not like that. He's low key. Sometimes you feel, 'Should I joke around with him on a game day or should I not?' and we have, and it's a breath of fresh air around here.''

This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at souhanunfiltered.com. On

Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com