Josh Harding should be the no-questions-asked starter for the Minnesota Wild at this point. He seemed to be running with the proverbial ball before sustaining a lower-body injury on October 24, but Harding has bounced back once again, and at this point there should be no question as to who leads the Wild out onto the ice more often than not.
A quick glance at the numbers does a lot of talking to be sure.
Harding is 5-2-1 on the year, sports a .953 save percentage and still has a 1.00 GAA. Truly awe-inspiring numbers. Especially when they’re compared to that of Niklas Backstrom. The oft-injured backstop has a 1-1-2 record this season to go along with a 3.42 GAA and a .871 save percentage.
At times the NHL can be a “money plays” league, but this isn’t a situation that falls under that category. Both Backstrom and Harding are locked in at the pro level, and Minnesota doesn’t have to pay either one of these guys more or less regardless of when they play or sit.
Backstrom has been the go-to No. 1 for the Wild since 2006, and there’s something to be said about not axing the guy because of four bad games. Yet the last time we checked, Minnesota was still in the business of winning hockey games and trying to be a true Stanley Cup contender.
Right now is there any question at all about who gives this team the best chance to win on a nightly basis? Harding’s hand could just be hot at the moment, or maybe this is a 29-year-old finding a new level of play. Regardless of the reason, the Wild would be wise to roll with Harding until he lays a few stinkers out on the ice.
The way he’s been playing lately, we wouldn’t expect that any time soon.