The 2013 NHL playoffs have not been particularly kind to goaltenders.
Whether it's the lost teeth between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, the astronomical amount of goals being allowed between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins or the unfortunate game-winning goal Jonathan Quick allowed against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1, this year's playoffs has been a rough place for the NHL's last line of defense.
This is especially true in the case of the Minnesota Wild.
Their goaltending issues began before their playoff run even officially started when goaltender Niklas Backstrom sustained an injury during warmups for Game 1 of their series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
While this impediment could have potentially led to catastrophic results, backup goaltender Josh Harding filled in admirably for Backstrom and helped Minnesota push Game 1 to overtime by holding Chicago to a single goal in regulation. After a rocky showing in Game 2, Harding and the Wild rebounded in Game 3 to pull within a game of tying the series.
Unfortunately, Harding sustained an injury in Game 4 when Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews fell on his leg in the first period. Harding was unable to return for the second period, which forced rookie goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the crease.
This marked the second time in four games that Minnesota was without a backup goaltender.
Even worse, it marked the second time in four games their starting goaltender was injured and the team registered a loss.
After falling 3-0 in Game 4, Minnesota returns to Chicago down 3-1 in the series. With Backstrom and Harding's statuses unknown, the club could face an elimination game with their backup's backup at the helm, which isn't exactly an ideal situation when facing the Western Conference's top team.
This could mean serious issues if Kuemper is injured during the contest.
Minnesota has done a great job of battling Chicago this series. While the team only has one win to show for their efforts, it can't be overlooked how well they've played. Unfortunately, falling into a 3-1 hole -- in combination with the potential loss of both their goaltenders -- might prove to be an obstacle too steep for the team to overcome.
The Wild will attempt to fend off elimination when the series resumes Thursday night in Chicago.