The NHL and NHLPA are back at the negotiating table this week, and while we still don’t know if we will even get a season, we do know that there is no possibility of a full 82-game season. If the league and the players do get a deal sorted out, I believe the Minnesota Wild will have an advantage with their great goaltending tandem of Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.
If and when we get a season this year, the schedule will be more condensed, and teams will regularly play four or five games in a week. That would mean a lot of back-to-back-to-back games, or situations where the Wild would play four games in five nights. Thus, all teams would rely more heavily on their backup goalie.
By all rights, the Wild have two starting goalies instead of a clear number one/number two situation. Harding even tested the free agency waters after last season, showing he feels he could be a starting goaltender in another city. But ultimately he decided to re-sign with Minnesota, perhaps considering that Backstrom’s contract expires at the end of this year whether there is a season or not.
In any case, the Wild have two very capable goalies on the roster for this year, and that would go a long way toward up tying together a successful campaign. Consider other teams like the Nashville Predators, where Pekka Rinne started 70+ games in 2011-12 and their backup, Anders Lindback went to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Preds would have a much tougher time in a shortened season, where either they would risk Rinne’s health sending him out for four games in a week, or send out an inferior number two tender.
Of course, the Wild’s goalie advantage would quickly evaporate if either Backstrom or Harding suffered a serious injury, and both have had injury problems throughout their career. Perhaps a short schedule with more of a timeshare would help alleviate injury concerns, but all it takes is one freak play to put a player out of commission.
Ultimately, if the NHL avoids canceling this season, I think the Wild would have a leg up on the competition with their tandem of quality goaltenders.