Last night the Wild defeated the Sharks 2-1. The goals were scored by Koivu and Bouchard for the Wild, Joe Pavelski for the Sharks. The win makes it the third 5 game win streak for the Wild this year, and extends their lead over the Blackhawks and Penguins as first overall in the NHL to 3 points. But that is not what the story was last night. The story last night was the NHL debut of Matt Hackett.
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Last year, Matt Hackett was backing up Wild prospect goaltender Anton Khudobinfor the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros. He got his shot at being the Aeros’ number 1 goalie when Khudobin was dealt at the deadline last year to the Boston Bruins. He played well down the stretch, helping the Aeros reach the Calder Cup Finals last season. Last week, Matt Hackett was the starting goaltender Houston Aeros, where he was riding a 9-3-3 record. Last night, he became the future of Wild goaltending. I’ve seen Matt Hackett play 4 games for the Aeros, and now 1 for the Wild. This kid is the real deal.
If you were unable to see the game, let me set this stage for you. The Wild’s starting net minder, Niklas Backstrom, was hurt two games earlier and was not dressed to play. The Wild’s backup goalie Josh Harding started the game, with Matt Hackett having been called up from Houston to back him up. Within a minute of the game’s start, Harding had given up a goal and seen 9 shots. The Sharks came out of the box on fire to the max. 15 seconds later, Wild defenseman Nick Schultz runs into his own goaltender with his elbow. Harding goes down, and he is helped off the ice, paving the way for the NHL debut of Matt Hackett, the ninth rookie to suit up for the Wild this year. He would face 34 more shots, and he would make 34 saves. That is definitely a feat unto itself, because the Sharks are no slouch- and not a team you want your rookie goaltender to have his first start against ideally, especially when your team has won 1 out of the last 10 against this team at HP Pavilion Arena. But Hackett stood tall in the net, and if you never knew he was a rookie, you would never have been able to tell. From the moment Harding got hit, to the second the game ended, he looked as cool and calm as any goalie who’d played in the league for years. He was impressive from the second he was a part of the game.
Now, what does this mean for the Wild? It may mean that come trade deadline time Josh Harding or Niklas Backstrom are expendable. If Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher feel Hackett can win the Wild games at the NHL level, they may be able to trade one of these guys for a piece that can improve the team. It’s no secret that the Wild have good depth at the goalie position within the organization, and we may start to see that depth start to manifest itself fairly soon.
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