Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Curse Of Backstrom

If you're an Edmonton Oilers fan, you've had a pretty rough season. In fact, the last few years haven't been anything to write home about except for the high draft picks. Some of those have panned out, and the elements of a young, exciting team is starting to form. However, if you're an Oilers fan, you probably cringe in seeing the goaltender pictured to the left. That man is Niklas Backstrom, and he's a goaltender for a divisional rival in the Minnesota Wild. The problem is that he has dominated the Oilers in his career, and it didn't change tonight when the Oilers and Wild met.

Backstrom, in my view, is a very good goaltender. Sure, he has a bad game here and there, but he always seems to find a way to keep the Minnesota Wild in games. If the Wild had some offensive firepower, they could be a dominant team with Backstrom protecting the net. Nevertheless, Backstrom has been a thorn in the sides of the Oilers for some time now.

Backstrom is 14-0 in his career at home against the Oilers. I've not heard of such domination against one team since the NHL expanded in 1967, and it seems there's no letting up for Backstrom against the Oilers. With the two teams meeting six times during the regular season, the streak could be as many as 17-0 by the end of the 2011-12 season if this success continues.

"For me I don't really think about it," Backstrom told The Associated Press. "I think I try to approach every team the same way. It doesn't matter who we play against."

Except it apparently does. Oilers' defenceman Tom Gilbert has his own theory on Backstrom's success.

"He stands on his head a lot when he's playing against us, and that's why he's a great goalie," Gilbert told The Associated Press. "He's tough to beat. We gave ourselves a lot of opportunities and back-door plays, and he covers the net as well as anyone in the league."

Backstrom has a 1.15 GAA and four shutouts against the Oilers over those 14 games, so it seems to be a case of home-cooking combined with a mediocre Oilers club. That being said, beating one team 14 straight times in front of your home fans is a pretty good statistic to flaunt. And it seems even better when you consider that Backstrom is 17-1-2 all-time against the Oilers.

The only loss? It came almost one year ago as the Oilers downed the Wild in Edmonton by a 4-1 score. The major difference in the two Edmonton teams is roster changes: Penner, Potulny, and Moreau are all playing for different teams this year, and the new-look Oilers have been decimated by injuries. So maybe there is an asterisk beside that goaltending record, but Backstrom still has to make the saves. And that's something he's doing in spades against the Oilers.

If it's any consolation, the Oilers have one more date against the Wild this season. The Oilers will host Minnesota on April 8, so there is still a chance to put a dent into that record if the Oilers can beat Backstrom. Of course, if Backstrom is given the night off, the Oilers will have to wait until next season, but there's still pride to play for in this season.

More importantly, both teams have players that are fighting for jobs for next season. And that should be the main motivator for every player when they clash on April 8.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Peter Santellan said...

A small correction, Horcoff is still with the Oilers. Still, though, it makes little difference for a team that for all intents and purposes, isn't very good right now.

Teebz said...

Right you are, Dr. Pete! Made the correction, and thank you. I was thinking of Fernando Pisani when writing this. My bad, and good catch! :o)