Since we did some goalie talk yesterday, I figured we can keep the masked man talk flowing today. Someone should write a feature about Batman for later. Can we coax Giles to come out of retirement?
Anyway, I wanted to take a closer look at the season Niklas Backstrom had last year. He was an absolute workhorse for the Wild, starting 41 of the Wild's 48 games last year. If you're keeping score at home, he started 45 and 50 games in the previous two seasons, those seasons of course being 82 games.
He had been expected to keep up his time-sharing ways with Josh Harding in the fold, but as we all know too well, Josh Harding was diagnosed with MS. While he played through some of the season, he had to miss most of the year adjusting his medication to get his symptoms under control.
This did not seem to faze Backstrom for a long period of time, as the Wild shied away from trusting backups Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper for much of the season. However, as we all know, this proved disastrous in the final season, where Backstrom's performance declined precipitously. Here are his save percentages by month.
January: .910 (5 Games)
February: .921 (10 Games)
March: .915 (14 Games)
April: .889 (13 Games)
Ouch! I knew that was bad, but not that bad. Anyway, his final stretch of the year (which actually started in late March) completely dragged down what was otherwise a very good season for Backstrom. Not only did he start a very high percentage of his games, he also started 22 games where he was playing after one day of rest. This was an increase from 18 games the previous season, and 13 in 2010-11. His save percentage was a mere .903 during those 22 games.
Ultimately, this (and the injury that made him unable to play in the playoffs) confirms what we already know: The Wild need a backup goaltender to step up and bear some of the load Backstrom carried last season, whether that's Harding, Kuemper, or someone else. To their credit, Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher have indicated that they've learned from this apparent mistake, which they felt forced into by the shortened season and Harding's absence. It will be interesting to see how the Wild manage what's become an uncertain situation in net.