Minnesota Wild: How Matt Hackett's Stellar Performance Changes Everything

James Harrison Jr.Contributor IIDecember 7, 2011

Rookie goalie Matt Hackett
Rookie goalie Matt HackettEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Tuesday night, the Minnesota Wild faced the San Jose Sharks.  With the Wild holding down the NHL, having an NHL-best 37 points, they looked for revenge against a team that they often struggle with.  

The Sharks came out firing on all cylinders, accumulating seven shots on goal in the first 60 seconds of the game.  After Joe Pavelski swatted the puck out of mid-air for a goal, the Sharks looked as if they were going to make it a long night for the Wild.  Eleven seconds later, Wild defender Nick Schultz accidentally elbowed Josh Harding in the head, snapping his neck back and taking him out of the game indefinitely.

However, the real story in this game was the 21-year-old rookie goalie, Matt Hackett, who was called up from AHL-affiliate Houston in relief of the injured Niklas Backstrom.  With Harding out of the game early, Hackett made a very unexpected start against childhood friend Logan Couture.  

By the end of the game, Hackett made all 34 possible saves on 93 attempted shots in a barrage of lasers from Sharks snipers, coming out on top with a 2-1 win.  Not only was this an incredible performance by a rookie, but it gave the Wild a much-needed win to bring them to an NHL-best 39 points.

There are a few reasons that this performance can really help the Wild in the short and long term.  With Backstrom and Harding showing that they are still injury prone, having a third goalie who can perform when needed could be crucial.  If Backstrom goes down, Harding in net and Hackett on the bench seems to be comfortable for the Wild, like we saw Tuesday.  With two possibly All-Star-caliber goalies, Backstrom already being one, and Harding already in the mix, a 21-year-old sponge behind them could possibly help shape him into an All-Star himself.

Now here's where this really shakes things up.  We all know that Zach Parise is rumored to be on the trading block, and the Team USA standout could really help out this driven team.  Martin Brodeur claims he is nowhere near retiring, but if New Jersey doesn't want to play him, he really has nothing to do with it.  A trade thrown around the rumor mill is Niklas Backstrom straight up for Zach Parise.  

Now, as a Wild fan, you may think that this sounds stupid because Parise's contract is up after this year.  With Hackett showing the potential of a star, he is making it easier to fathom the thought of dealing Backstrom.  Also, with players like Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi deep in the program, a high-caliber player like Parise is more likely to stay in Minnesota after the year.