Nik Backstrom is playing for a contract.
Okay, maybe that's not the first thing in his mind during games right now, but the fact remains that the 30-year-old Wild goalie is unsigned beyond this season. While there is nothing in his public personae to justify any such "of course he's been great this season, he's in a walk year!" statements, the flip side of that mind frame for us fans is "Backstrom isn't signed yet?! WTF is Risebrough doing?!"
The guy has been sensational at best, and very good at worst, for the Wild all season long. Even in December, he was often one of precious few Wild players worthy of overall praise.
But all his brilliance so far this season essentially leads up to last night's performance, a 28-save shutout against the highest-scoring team in the league, in their own building, with the smallest possible margin for error (the dreaded 1-goal lead.)
Boston is a very, very good team. But Backstrom made the routine, the difficult and the acrobatic/ridiculous saves all night long, and earned his second-straight shutout (tied for league lead with 5), running his current shutout streak to 125:26.
The goal was supplied by Marek Zidlicky, on the power play - I know: surprise, surprise - and the team overall worked hard in turning aside wave after wave of Boston marauders.
But take nothing away from Backstrom.
While he is certainly the Wild player who would currently fetch the highest return in a trade scenario, and Harding has really played well in spot duty behind him, it's going to be tough to swallow losing him via trade if the team is still in the playoff hunt. But, of course, Risebrough would need to actually call Nik or his agent if he's interested in re-signing him (as the last reports have indicated that he has not.)
Oh, and petulant Manny Fernandez got the loss - his first at home this season. There's karma for you.
Chicken Little says: But for the grace of an insurance goal...
Pollyanna says: And the recent hit parade continues! San Jose, Detroit, (Colorado), and now Boston!
Bottom Line: The Wild gets two more big points, against another very good team.
Stud: Backstrom, Backstrom, Backstrom. A thousand times Backstrom!
Dud: Bruno is now playing like a snake-bitten player. We can't have that kind of defeatism from one of our veterans, especially one from whom we need as much offense as possible.
Up Next: A visit to the city of brotherly love, and a date with the Flyers. Thursday, 7pm ET. TV: FSN-North, CSN-PH.