Niklas Backstrom turned aside 35 shots Monday night to help lead the Minnesota Wild past the Vancouver Canucks and into first place in the Northwest Divison. The Wild have reeled off three straight games and have won five of their last six. They continue to look like a legitimate postseason contender, thanks in large part to the outstanding play of Backstrom. As usual, Backstrom is seeing a lot of action in net and coming up big. He has started the last eight games and winning six of those games has improved his season record to 14-7-2.
Backstrom’s great performance is a huge relief for a Wild team that lost backup goaltender Josh Harding early in the season due to medical issues. Rookie Darcy Kuemper was decent in limited action, and the Wild have yet to use Matt Hackett since recalling him from the AHL and sending Kuemper down. Backstrom has a 2.34 goals-against average, slightly better than his career average. An improved offense has helped take some of the pressure off of the Minnesota defense, which is good news considering Backstrom has faced more than 30 shots in each of the last three games.
Offseason acquisition Ryan Suter has been a great addition in front of Backstrom, and is tied for the team scoring lead as well. His 23 points tie him with Mikko Koivu, and seven players on the Wild’s roster have contributed more than 10 points.
The Wild have a great chance to get to the playoffs this season, and Backstrom seems pretty motivated to help them on that quest. He hasn’t been to the postseason since 2008 but if he continues to help his team get big wins, that drought should end soon.