November 19 2013 08:13AM
Josh Harding's story keeps getting better and better. The 38th pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2012. At the time many wondered if he would be healthy enough to return to the NHL. MS is an unpredictable neurological disease. It can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue and even paralysis and blindness. Some symptoms are permanent while others come and go.
Seventy-five percent of diagnosed patients are women, but when a man has MS the symptoms can be more severe. A year after his diagnosis, Harding isn't just dealing with MS, he is flourishing with it.
MS is a debilitating disease. My aunt Theresa has battled it for over 30 years. I've also had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly strong and powerful people, both men and women, the past five years while taking part in the 190KM MS Bike Tour.
I've watched in awe and amazement as many young people under the age of 35 have had their lives turned upside down after their diagnosis. The symptoms vary, and for some people it is difficult to do any sort of intense physical activity. There are four different types of MS: Relapsing-remitting, primary-progressive, secondary-progressive and progressive-relapsing. Relapsing-remitting is the most common form at the time of initial diagnosis, but Harding hasn't said what type he has, which is understandable considering it is a private matter.
Regardless, Harding is playing better post-analysis than he was prior to last November's announcement.
Harding is 12-2-2 with a stellar 1.25 GAA and a 0.946 SV%. He is one win away from tying his career high, 13, and he is already over halfway to matching his most minutes played in a season.
Harding is the main reason the Wild are two points out of first place in the ultra-competitive western conference. If he continues to play this well he might get some consideration to be the 3rd goalie at the Olympics. Canada will likely go with Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith or Martin Brodeur, but Harding's spectacular start can't be overlooked.
Only three goalies have started at least ten games and have a GAA under two. Harding has a sparkling 1.25 GAA, while Martin Brodeur has 11 starts and a 1.98 GAA and a 0.918 SV% and Tukka Rask has started 17 games and has a 1.64 GAA and a 0.944 SV%.
Harding's perseverance is extraodinary, and for me he is the best success story in the NHL this season. His GAA will rise and his SV% will drop before the season is over, but that won't matter to me.
He has already overcome the odds, and he is one player that I will be cheering for all season.
- Jaromir Jagr continues to impress. He has 7 goals and 16 points in 20 games. He is currently 10th all-time in goals, but if he can score 20 goals in the final 62 games he will pass Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Mike Gartner and sit in 6th place. If the Devils aren't in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, you can bet teams will be calling for Jagr.
- Last year the Chicago Blackhawks were 2nd in team SV% and first in the western conference. This season through 21 games, they are 26th in team SV%, but still first in the west. Something has to give, doesn't it?
- Considering the Oilers' Corsi numbers and scoring chances are now similar to last season, are people finally going to admit that coaching isn't the issue? Coaching has to take some of the blame, but isn't it obvious this is a personnel issue? The team isn't big enough, strong enough and the blueline isn't efficient enough to become a playoff team, regardless of who is the head coach.
Craig MacTavish knows this and now it is time to see if he can make some moves to improve his team. It won't be easy, and there is no quick fix, but I'd hope everyone recognizes that likely one, maybe two, of the core pieces will need to be moved to acquire the pieces necessary to win.
- Last week in the comment sections a few people were claiming Patrick Roy's new system was the reason the Avs were winning. Since then they've lost three straight and been outscored 13-5. The Avs are improved, but their goaltending couldn't sustain a .960 SV% and Matt Duchene was playing like the league MVP. The Avs blueline is starting to look like we expected them to be, average.
- The Steve Downie trade hurt also hurt them. Downie adds more offence than Talbot, and while Downie's temper can get the best of him at times, he was an excellent complementary player on the Avs.
- The Phoenix Coyotes have scored 3 or more goals in 11 of their past 12 games. The Coyotes are proof that solid defensive play leads to more offence. Only the Chicago Blackhawks have scored more goals than the Coyotes. They have balanced scoring and right now their blueline is scoring at a ridiculous rate.
Michael Stone has six goals in 15 games and an unsustainable 25 SH%, but the Coyotes D-men shoot the puck. The top-six Coyotes defenders have 184 shots. The Oilers have 114.
On paper no one would expect them to be this efficient offensively, but the Coyotes put pucks on net and they get traffic in front. The Oilers blueliners must start shooting the puck more, and the forwards need to get to the net more often.
- The Oilers have scored the 2nd fewest goals in the western conference. Their top-six has not been productive enough. Collectively that group needs to realize they have to start going to the tough areas to score, because until they do, they won't start scoring regularly.
- Look for the Oilers to play more of a pressure game, especially on the forecheck. They feel Dubnyk is playing better, so they can pressure more, and it is likely due to the fact the team isn't built to sit back. You will see the D pressure more in the neutral zone and even be involved in the forecheck according to Dallas Eakins.
HELP US OUT....
Jason Strudwick had a great run on Battle of the Blades and he finished in 2nd place earning $35,000 for the Inner City Children's Program. That is great, but they were hoping for the first place prize of $50,000. We are hoping to make up that final $15,000 this Friday at the 2nd annual DJ Suitcase Party this Friday.
Tickets are only $30, but you get $45 dollars in gift certificates when you show up. It is a win-win, and I guarantee it will be a great time. We are about 75% sold out. FYI...there will be a few special guests in attendance that you might want to meet.
Buy your tickets here....
A big thanks to Russ Dratwa from Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management for being the Title Sponsor this year.