Consistency is a beautiful thing. It helps keep life sane and in focus.
In the case of Josh Harding, a little consistency has led to some major rewards. The NHL announced today that the netminder was named the Third Star of the week after going 3-0-0 in three games with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in that stretch.
While Harding mentioned it’s nice to have the consistency in net that he’s had so far this season, he was quick to point out the rest of the team’s effort.
“It’s always nice to get in a rhythm, getting out there a lot,” Harding said. “I know it’s kind of getting old, but I’ll go back every time and say, the team has been focused in — d-men and forwards, everything. We’re playing such a sound game, getting big goals when we need it. It’s a good time right now.”
Between the Wild’s play and his own, Harding is 12-2-2 this season and is undefeated at Xcel Energy Center with a 10-0-0 record. Head Coach Mike Yeo said he wasn’t surprised at all to hear about the honor.
“We keep talking about this and for good reason,” Yeo said. “He’s coming every night and he’s doing more than giving us a chance to win. He’s been stellar back there. It’s not just the fact he’s making saves, it’s the way he’s making them. There’s not a lot of scrambles around the net. He seems to be in control. That just helps us to have a lot more confidence.”
Harding is the second Wild player named an NHL Star of the Week this season. Jason Pominville picked up a First Star of the Week on Nov. 4. And while Harding is thankful for the honor, he’s already put it in the past and is focusing on the next game — which was his immediate response upon being asked how the honor affects his confidence.
NHL.com’s Dan Rosen spoke a bit about Harding in his piece today on the year’s biggest storylines. Though he’s not mentioned in the video, Rosen does note in the article that without Harding, the Wild wouldn’t be where they are (30 points, Second in the Central Division) — a sentiment the goaltender refuses to take credit for, but Wild fans almost can't help but see. As is quoted above, Harding has said time and again that much of his success stems from what the guys in front of him have been able to do this season.
Where Harding has earned a lot of consistent time between the pipes, goaltender Darcy Kuemper hasn’t quite had the same luxury with the Wild.
Kuemper, who was recalled by the Wild this morning, has played only 32 minutes for the Wild this season after relinquishing three goals in Toronto, leading to a 4-1 loss on Oct. 15. The tilt marked only his second game of the season overall, between the NHL and the AHL with the Iowa Wild.
Kuemper has since played nine games for Iowa and owns a 2.97 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in the AHL. Now, back with the Wild, the young netminder has put Toronto behind him.
“It was just one of those games where, obviously, things didn’t go very good,” Kuemper said. “But I’m not going to let it affect me long term. I’ve played lots of games since then and my confidence is right where it needs to be.”
“The bottom line is, we have confidence in him as a goaltender,” Yeo said. “He’s a guy that we believe is a big part of our future. There’s going to be ups and downs for all young players, every position, and obviously goaltending is as challenging as any of them.”
Yeo also noted with calling Kuemper up and down earlier this season, he wasn’t able to establish any sort of a rhythm. But with a little more consistency down in the AHL, Yeo hopes that should help.
Kuemper’s latest opportunity with the Wild comes on the heels of Niklas Backstrom’s absence from the lineup due to an upper-body injury. Yeo said Backstrom’s status remains day-to-day. But Kuemper isn’t thinking about any future possibilities or how long Backstrom may be out; he’s just taking everything day by day.
Kuemper drove up from Iowa last night, and said he took it a little slow after getting pulled over on I-35 last time he got the call up. Let’s say NHL jitters or a little over excitement were to blame.
With back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday in Montreal and Ottawa respectively, Kuemper can be expected to get the nod Wednesday — in the less hostile Ottawa — with Harding in net against Montreal.