2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Should Josh Harding Start Game 3?


May 3, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) looks for the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago – It was only a matter of time before the Chicago Blackhawks laid a five-spot on the Minnesota Wild. Though goaltender Josh Harding had another solid performance in net—stopping 43 of 47 shots for a .915 save percentage—the Wild offense just couldn’t get rolling and the goals by Devin Setoguchi and Marco Scandella weren’t enough.

With Chicago holding a very comfortable 2-0 lead in the series, the matchup now turns to Minnesota’s home ice for the next two games. If No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom is ready for Sunday afternoon, it puts Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo in a tough situation. Harding has by no means played terrible in this series, stopping 78 of 84 shots for a .929 save percentage. On the contrary, he’s been the only thing keeping his team in the game. Do you risk ruining the only good thing going for you by throwing Backstrom back in the crease?

Yeo will undoubtedly do whatever he feels is best for his team. That said, I think it’s a crap shoot. Backstrom is without a doubt the best goaltender in franchise history or, at least, that’s what the stats say. However, considering the rough year Harding has had, and his incredible play in this series, it’s very hard to put him back on the bench.

The fact of the matter is that Yeo will not start Backstrom if he feels his goalie isn’t 110%. If that’s the case, rookie Darcy Kuemper is more likely to start than Backstrom at this point. Very few goalie tandems are seen in the playoffs as teams prefer to ride their No. 1 from start to finish. Yes—this is a slightly different situation with Backs going down in Game 1 warm-ups; however, maybe it’s best for Harding to finish what he started. He probably wouldn’t want it any other way.