Good day, Wilderness! What a beautiful day it is back home here in Wisconsin. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you can smell freshly cut grass. Anywho, with that out the way, it's time to see how us staff writers here at the Wilderness graded our goalies over this shortened season.
Dan Czarnecki (WIMinnesotaWildFan)
Niklas Backstrom: B+
Pretty great season for Backs, but things went wrong for him at the worst possible times. During the regular season he had some great nights with some spectacular saves, but then he would have some off nights with less-than-spectacular performance. Even though he didn't get to play any of our playoff games, I'm sure he will have just as great of a season (if not better) next year.
Josh Harding: B
Harding started off this season with mediocre performance, but then he just exploded during the playoffs. Keeping in mind that he had MS, many were surprised by his decent play during the playoffs. Seeing him being a finalist for the Masterton, I hope he can come away winning it. Hopefully he can also rebound next season and be able to play more.
Darcy Kuemper: C
He was good, but not great. When the Wild first called him up during the regular season, he has a decent debut. But, come time for the playoffs when Harding also injured himself, he just flopped. Better luck next year, Kuemper.
Aaron Holm (The Nooge)
Niklas Backstrom: B+
The work horse in the cage this year, Backstrom saw action in 42 of 48 games going 24-15-3 with a .909 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. A lot of complaints out of the fans saying Backstrom was over-worked this season. I'm not going to agree with this sentiment, as with the lack in offensive production this team seemed to go through it was Backs who kept this team in the games. Would it have been nice to have a healthy Harding to give Backstrom a respite from time to time? Indeed, but that should never be an excuse either. You're paid to play the game, and if you can't then what good are you?
Darcy Kuemper: B-
This kid looks like he's 12, literally. A 12 year old kid going against the NHL's elite is simply amazing. I find it tough to fault the kid who started out the year 4th on many of our goalie depth charts. With Kuemper having a great year in Houston, and Hackett being traded in the deal that brought us Jason Pominville, Kuemper found himself thrust into the NHL when Harding was placed on IR and again in the playoffs when Backstrom was hurt. He performed about as well as any of us could have expected in those situations, and given more time to develop he should start challenging for a spot on the NHL roster real soon.
Josh Harding: B-
How can you not love this guy? A southpaw goalie in the NHL, diagnosed with MS before the season was only able to suit up for 5 regular season games. His numbers in the regular season were less than stellar with a .863 save percentage and 3.24 goals against average. After missing most of the season being thrust into a playoff round when Backstrom went down during game 1 warm ups, he was nothing short of remarkable considering the situation. Despite an injury of his own in the playoffs he managed to stop 123 of 135 shots on net in the 5 game series.
Niklas Backstrom: B
Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom was a rock and played 87 percent of the Wild’s games this season. I also believe that he that he played pretty well, if you take into account who the Wild have defensively in front of him. After the top two pairing defensively (Suter/Brodin), the Wild are pretty thin on defense and give up a lot of shots. Backstrom tied for first in wins in the NHL with 24. According to Fox Sports North, Backstrom played the seventh-most minutes of any goaltender in the league. It will be interesting to see if the Minnesota Wild resign Backstron, who is a UFA and made six million last season. I believe the Minnesota Wild will make an effort to resign Backstrom, but it won’t be for the six million that he made last time. Backstrom is on record as wanting to come back.
Darcy Kuemper: C-
What I saw of Darcy Keumper didn’t impress me at all. I am hoping the Wild have a goaltender in their system that is better than this guy. The only think impressive about Kuemper in my opinion was his 6’5" frame.
Josh Harding: B+
Josh Harding has had a tough year with his health issues and I think his play during the Stanley Cup Playoffs only proved to us that he can still play at a high very high level. Harding is also a candidate for the Masterson Memorial Trophy and I am hoping Harding stays with the Minnesota Wild, because he has proved that he’s a serviceable backup goaltender. In 122 NHL games, Harding has a record of 42-52-0, .915 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average, that’s not bad in my opinion.
Niklas Backstrom: B-
Niklas Backstrom: B
You could argue that the Wild dropped all the way to the No. 8 seed because of the play of Nik Backstrom. You could also argue that one of the only reasons they did make the playoffs was because of Backstrom. He was great at time, he was bad at times and he was poor at times ... just like the team in front of him.
Josh Harding: C
In just five games played during the regular season, he won just once and his stats were average at best. Considering all he's been through and how he handled hismself during the postseason should not be overlooked. He's a hell of a person and will add value to any team he's a part of going forward.
Darcy Kuemper: B
His NHL numbers were good, and his AHL numbers were spectacular. Kuemper has all the potential in the world, and he is just so much fun to be around. I believe this kid will use that skill and great attitude to propel himself into a starter's role some day. He held the fort when he had too, and the Wild made the right call at the trade deadline with Buffalo.
Niklas Backstrom: B
Never before did the Wild rely so heavily on Niklas Backstrom. He started 42 of the teams 48 games, including the last 19. He struggled down the stretch, but perhaps that can be blamed on the lack of rest due to the shortened schedule. Backstrom played great through March, and I was preaching that the team should get him an extension. Even after the bad stretch at the end, and the hernia injury, I still believe Backstrom should be re-signed for another couple of years.
Darcy Kuemper: B+
Kuemper only started three games all year for the Wild. He made more appearances in mop up roles, and played stellar in all of those appearances (excluding the playoffs). After trading Matt Hackett, Kuemper appears to be the goalie of the future, but let's give him another few years at the AHL before we hand the reigns over to him fully.
Josh Harding: D+
It kills me to give Harding such a low grade. He played great in his first few games, but after that, he was not good at all. He had a nice postseason, but the Blackhawks were just too much to handle. Lets all hope he can have a nice bounce back season, after winning the Masterton Trophy.