It’s goalie news galore here in the State of Hockey.
The big news of the day? The Minnesota Wild’s No. 1 goalie Josh Harding has been named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week after going an impressive 3-0-0 with a 1.38 goals against average and .939 save percentage in backstopping the Wild to a home-stand sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets.
Harding is currently undefeated at the Xcel Energy Center this season with a home record of 10-0-0. Minnesota’s 13-4-4 start to the season is the franchise’s best ever, thanks in large part to the nothing short of spectacular play they are receiving from Harding. In 17 games this season, Harding has posted a 12-2-2 record, a 1.25 goals against average, a .946 save percentage and two shutouts.
Harding can’t do it all, however, and that brings us to the other news of the day. The Minnesota Wild have swapped backups.
North American pro rookie Johan Gustafsson has had Harding’s back the past few games, but, with a back-to-back coming Tuesday and Wednesday against Ottawa and Montreal, the club needs a second goalie that can take one of those two starts. Gustafsson’s not the answer–at least, not yet. That said, down goes the Swede, up comes former Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper has had a rollercoaster of a season so far, not unlike Matt Hackett last year. After going 1-2-0 with a 2.08 goals against average and a .916 save percentage in six games last season, the hulking 6’5″ youngster has struggled in the limited action he’s seen this season. In 10 games with the Iowa Wild this season, Kuemper has notched a 3-7-0 record, a 2.97 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He would allow three goals on seven shots before being pulled after 32:22 of action against the Maple Leafs in his only NHL start this season back on October 15th.
In the meantime, Gustafsson will get more quality time in net down in Des Moines. In his first North American pro season, the 21-year old Swede has notched a 3-1-0 record to go with a 2.45 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and a shutout in five games this year.
Plenty of talk is still going around regarding Minnesota’s goalie situation. With netminders across the league seemingly starting to drop like flies, and the uncertainty surrounding Niklas Backstrom’s situation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wild GM Chuck Fletcher make a move. Right now, the leading candidates are Jose Theodore, Rick DiPietro and Johan Hedberg. The Oilers have also placed Jason LaBarbera on waivers, so there’s another option, but not likely the best one available. At this point, the signs seem to suggest Theodore would likely be the man for the job, and it’s a known fact he wants to play for Minnesota.
There are a lot of balls up in the air right now, and it may make for an interesting week. Keep checking back here for all the latest in Minnesota Wild news.