Noon Number (October 24th): 99.0%

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

I'm filling-in for Dan to do today's Noon Number. He'll be back tomorrow in my usual Friday slot. Today's edition is about Josh Harding.

Harding has had a difficult time so far in the NHL to say the least. He was slowly developed over a number of years as Niklas Backstrom's back-up and has been groomed for the starter's job for a few years. Unfortunately, his development was de-railed by missing the entire 2010/2011 season through injury, and then, after a strong showing in 2011/2012, he missed almost all the 2012/2013 season after being diagnosed with MS. He had a short cameo in the playoffs last season, where he showed how good he can be when healthy.

I feel like the plan all along was to let Backstrom walk at the end of his last contract, install Harding as the starter, and let one of either Kuemper or Gustafsson be the back-up. Unfortunately, the uncertainty around Harding's health has meant that the team can't rely on him to be the starter so Backstrom was re-signed. An early season injury to Backstrom this year has thrust Harding into the starter's job, in which he has excelled.


-Here are Harding's numbers so far this year compared to other goalies around the league (includes only goalies who have played 50% of their team's games):

GOALIES: 5v5 (6+ GP) [2013/2014]

Rank

Name

Games Played

Sv%

Sv% (2007-13)

1st

JOSH HARDING

8

99.0%

91.9%

2nd

TUKKA RASK

7

96.0%

93.3%

3rd

SEMYON VARLAMOV

6

95.6%

92.5%

4th

CRAIG ANDERSON

7

95.5%

92.7%

5th

JAROSLAV HALAK

6

95.1%

92.8%

6th

CAREY PRICE

8

94.4%

92.4%

7th

CAM WARD

7

94.0%

92.4%

8th

COREY CRAWFORD

8

93.8%

92.5%

9th

ANTII NIEMI

9

93.5%

92.8%

10th

SERGEI BOBROVSKY

8

93.3%

92.9%

Average:

95.02%

92.62%

Obviously, 99% ES Sv% is completely unsustainable. Harding will regress to the mean over the course of the season, but the question is, how much?


-To get an idea of how much his numbers could, or should regress, lets look at the top-10 goalies from last season:

GOALIES: 5v5 (1000+ Minute) [2012/2013]

Rank

Name

Minutes Played

Sv%

1st

SERGEI BOBROVSKY

1744:19

94.2%

2nd

CRAIG ANDERSON

1070:27

94.0%

3rd

JIMMY HOWARD

1872:09

94.0%

4th

JONAS HILLER

1178:30

93.7%

5th

TUKKA RASK

1695:15

93.7%

6th

HENRIK LUNDQVIST

2046:12

93.6%

7th

COREY CRAWFORD

1356:47

93.2%

8th

BRADEN HOLTBY

1646:14

93.0%

9th

ANTII NIEMI

2034:41

93.0%

10th

MARC-ANDRE FLEURY

1459:58

93.0%

Average:

93.5%

The very best numbers from last year were just north of 94%, and the average for the top-10 was 93.5%. This is pretty elite goaltending, but I don't think it's completely unreasonable that Harding could continue to play well this year and finish somewhere around 93%.


-To give some perspective of what he has done so far in his stop and start career, here are Harding's minutes and ES Sv% numbers from each season since 2007-2008:

JOSH HARDING: 5v5 (Career) [Regular Season+Playoffs]

Season

Minutes

Sv%

2007-2008

1154:31

91.8%

2008-2009

630:00

92.6%

2009-2010

995:36

92:1%

2010-2011

-

-

2011-2012

1425:44

92.1%

2012-2013

384:20

91.8%

Average:

92.08%

2013-2014

332:00

99.0%

Harding's career average is around 92%, not including this season. If he can stay healthy, he has every chance to improve that number and have a career year. He looks extremely comfortable in net. He has made some big saves at crucial times and so far his health doesn't appear to be a concern.

If the Wild want to be cup contenders this year, they will need their goaltending to be sharp. With Backstrom in decline and finding it tough to stay healthy, and Kumeper too green, the responsibility falls on Harding's shoulders.

His numbers are gonna start to drop soon, but I'm hoping very much that they stay reasonably high and he establishes himself as the #1 goalie for the Wild. The guy deserves it with all the hell he has been through, and damn if it wouldn't be one of the most feel good stories the NHL has ever seen.

So, Harding for Vezina 2014? We shall see. I know the whole hockey world would be delighted if he could do it, but it's still early days and there's a lot of hockey left to play. Pat him on the back for his performance so far, but he will need to keep it up for the rest of the year.


Follow me on Twitter, and leave a comment in the comments section.

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