Josh Harding's been having hip problems, Nik Backstrom's been barfing his guts out and has a bad back, and so Dubie and Anton have been up with the Wild.
Tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, Harding says he's okay to go and feels good (and I'm thinking, Yeah right.... even small hip strains take forever to heal and if a hockey player is complaining about pain, it ain't because it's a small one... know what I'm sayin'?) Coach Todd Richards has Khudobin backing him up instead of Dubie.
Midway thru the third period, Harding surrenders the tying goal to put the game 2-2 and is shoved awkwardly into his net. Gets up very slowly but continues. Then with about 8 minutes left, he makes a HUGE diving save and from there... doesn't get up again without assistance and can't put any weight on his left leg.
Hey, guess what, Dimples! You're UP!
He was fantastic. Made 9 saves and looked perfectly cool and collected. But a friend of the blog wrote me an email and gave me the story as he saw it from his seat at the Xcel Center tonight and it's just too great not to share with you guys.
You have to promise not to take away his Man Card for getting "sappy" as he said, but I think if you don't get sappy about seeing a kid we've all watched grow up in the Wild organization finally make his NHL debut, there's something wrong with you.
Just getting home from the game. I did not wear my Aeros jersey, but I should have...Honestly? *tears* This is why I LOVE the AHL, to watch these guys go up and live the dreams they've been nurturing here with us is such a gift.
You heard it on TV, but the crowd was absolutely going nuts for Harding when he went down and down hard the first time. When he didn't get back up from that massive, spectacular save, he was getting a standing ovation. I know that sounds weird, but the save he made was amazing, and the crowd knew he was down and not getting back up and showed the respect.
When Khudobin made his first big save, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and that place was LOUD. I mean, I've been there when it's been loud, but the only other time I can remember it being louder was last seasons four minute 5v3 kill against the Canes. Everyone was just *screaming*.
Props to John Scott for helping his good friend off the ice. The look of total concern on the big boys face as he was propping up Harding reminded me of why I absolutely love this sport. You just don't see a collective "we care" holding of the breath as you saw in the team tonight when Harding wasn't getting up. I say props to John Scott, but every single member of the team would have been there to help Josh off.
Anton looked VERY shaky nervous when he took the ice. He didn't face much in the way of a decent shot until that first big save which had the crowd on their feet. We were in Row 17, right at the goal line. My wife and I could see him shaking on every face off near him. He was NERVOUS like you wouldn't believe.
Yet, when push came to shove, he was there. Yeah, you could tell he was nervous, but he was *focused*. I mean, the type of focus where you can tell he is thinking over and over in his head; "I will not let my team down. I will not let my team down." He always had his eye on the puck, he tried to play it but got caught a bit on one and was bailed out by Johnsson (i think).
Needless to say...
Very fine moment to witness.
It's moments like that which remind me why I love this sport.
I thought you would like to know our first hand account.
Oh, and my wife is going to buy a Khudobin Aeros jersey to commemorate it.
You can't show more respect than that, in my opinion.
The game moved me but your account moved me even more, Tim, so I really appreciate you sharing it with us. Might want to get the wife a Khudobin WILD jersey.... :)
Here's video of his two bigger saves:
Oh, and here's the cutest interview ever. Come on. Anybody who gives me shit for calling him Dimples... LOOK AT HIM! Adorable.
And here's some links:
Russo's post-game blog
Star-Tribune's game article