Does the Wild have a brewing goalie controversy on its hands? It’s sure starting to look like it.
Josh Harding provided another strong performance Tuesday in a 2-1 overtime victory at Detroit. Making his third start this season -- all against the Red Wings -- Harding finished with 36 saves. He has stopped 110 of 114 shots in his three appearances.
The Wild practice this afternoon and it will be interesting to see if coach Mike Yeo announces whether Harding or Niklas Backstrom will start in goal Thursday at home against Vancouver.
How do you switch gears now after the way Harding has played the past two games?
Yeo attempted to temper the goalie speculation after Monday’s practice when asked what he considers the ideal split in playing time. Mind you, this was before Harding played well again Tuesday night.
“I’m not even really going to think about that right now,” Yeo said. “We’ll let [Harding] play that game. We can’t lose sight that Backs has played some good hockey for us. There were a few games in there that I don’t think we get points or we don’t get even wins without Backs in the net. So obviously it’s great what Hards did [Saturday vs. Detroit] ... and we’ll evaluate it game by game. But by no means does that mean we forget about what Backs has done for us as well.”
The Wild considers Backstrom a cornerstone of their franchise. They gave the former All-Star a four-year, $24 million contract extension in 2009 that has a no-trade clause.
With that contract, they want him on the ice as much as possible. But then what do they do with Harding? What if he starts Thursday and continues to play at a high level?
Harding has shown no rust or health problems after returning from major knee surgery. He’s playing with confidence. He went into a difficult situation Tuesday night and gave his team a chance to leave Detroit with two points.
Every player and goalie wants to play. I’m not sure a platoon system is the way to go either. That certainly worked when the Wild had Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson. I don’t think either goalie particularly liked that arrangement, but they made it work. They seemed to thrive off that internal competition.
It’s a delicate situation because you never want to pull a hot goalie, even if the other guy is making $6 million a year. But you don’t want the backup collecting dust either. It’s hard to stay sharp when you’re in the lineup once every five games.
These kinds of situations tend to work themselves out, but I’m curious to see how Yeo handles it going forward.