The NHL revealed the finalists for the Masterton Trophy this morning on their website. In addition to Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, Wild goaltender Josh Harding was selected to round out the top three finalists for the award that goes to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
Harding, 28, broke the news in November that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable autoimmune disease where the body randomly attacks the protective lining of nerves throughout the body, causing them to scar. MS causes problems with balance, fatigue and blurred vision. That didn’t stop Harding from pitching a 24-save shutout in his first game since being diagnosed.
However, Harding began to struggle as January turned into February and was finally put on the shelf for most of the rest of the season as he tried to sort out medication issues. When Minnesota made the playoffs for the first time in five years, Harding, who had played just five regular season game this season, was the Wild’s go-to guy when No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom went down with an injury in pregame warm-ups before Game One against the Blackhawks. Harding was inspirational, posting a 1-4 record, .911 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average as he played all five of Minnesota’s games against the best team in the NHL.
If Harding wins, he’ll be the first Wild player to ever win the award.