Thursday, December 19, 2013

Calm Down

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Yesterday the Wild announced that Josh Harding has been placed on IR due to a change in his MS treatment. He is expected to miss the next three games and return for the game in Winnipeg on December 27th. The move signals the return of Niklas Backstrom, the number one goalie to open the season, as the primary goalie for the Wild.

Now some of you are probably thinking "Oh crap. Backstrom is terrible, the Wild are going to lose three in a row". Yeah, lets not have a panic attack. Get a paper bag, take deep breaths, and collect yourself.

In case you forgot, Niklas Backstrom was the Wild's number one goalie for the past 7 seasons. Yes, he is 36 years old. Yes, he has not had great play this year but don't forget he has had two different injuries this year. Also keep in mind, he probably would have more starts if Josh Harding wasn't holding Vezina worthy stats.

In his last start (12/12 at SJ), Backstrom looked solid but his three goals allowed were the result of an ineffective penalty kill. His play was worthy of another start, but Mike Yeo opted to put Harding back in the net to try and kill the two game winning streak.

So far this season, Backstrom holds a 91.8 even strength save percentage. Of the goalies who have played 9 or more games this year, that is only good for 37th in the NHL, but it is better than noted starters Henrik Lundqvist (91.5%), Craig Anderson (91.7%), Cory Schneider (91.6%), and Martin Brodeur (91.0%). And obviously, that percentage went up after his last start when he had a 100 save percentage at five on five.

It hasn't been a great season so far for Backstrom. But he is still a very capable goaltender and should do just fine now that he is going to get some starts.

So please, take a deep breath and don't panic today. Harding missing the next three games is not the end of the world. Look at it as an opportunity for Backstrom to redeem himself.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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