15-year-old fan wins contest to design the art on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom's mask

backstrommaskold.jpg(Niklas Backstrom in his old, less charming goalie mask)

I’ve seen goalies allow fans to design their masks before, but I only recall Calder-winner-turned-backup Andrew Raycroft doing so. The fans who submitted their artwork for Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom’s mask will likely see their labor of love a lot more often, as the Finnish goalie played 60, 71, 58 and 41 games in the last four seasons.

Backstrom chose a design by 15-year-old Peter Best of Plymouth, Minnesota. Here’s a shot of the artwork via the Wild Web Site. (Click to enlarge)

wildmaskwinner.jpg

While the original work is impressively detailed, an artist will take its inspiration and make something a little fancier out of it. Here’s more information about the process from the Wild.

After days of wrestling with his very difficult decision, Backstrom went with Best’s very detailed design. The mask shows the skylines of St. Paul on one side, and Minneapolis on the other, covered by the Wild’s crest at the top. Wolves adorn each side, and the back features the Finnish flag, as well as the Wild’s 10th anniversary mark.

Best will now be invited to the studio of mask designer Todd Miska, who will take the design concept and tailor it to meet Backstrom’s specifications. He will also have the opportunity to present the finished product to Backstrom in person at the Wild’s training camp in September.

Best’s work beat out four other finalists to win the honor (I prefer Kelsey Bolden’s “Logo Mask” and the Paul Bunyan one is adorable in a children’s art kind of way, but that’s just my opinion).

You have to love when teams allow fans to get so involved, especially considering the fact that they’ll be able to look at their work on such a regular basis (barring injury and poor play, of course). Minnesota features one of the most devoted fan bases in the NHL, as they pack the building even when the team is decidedly mediocre. Good on Backstrom and the Wild for running the contest and congrats to Best for earning his 15 seconds (or 50-70 games) of fame.

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    Sharks grind out win, make life difficult for Kings

    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks and Brent Burns #88 celebrate a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet again, it will be in the playoffs. If they do so, the Sharks will hold quite a bit of a recent edge.

    They defeated them in the first round of the 2016 playoffs and won the 2016-17 season series with the Kings after beating L.A. in a tight 3-2 affair on Wednesday.

    During a week where leads have been flimsy and goals came in flurries, this one started off pretty hot. The Sharks generated a 2-1 lead in the first period, and then the two teams exchanged goals in the second, with Joe Pavelski‘s goal ultimately standing as the game-winner.

    The Sharks won after a scoreless third period, keeping them in a position to take back first place in the Pacific Division:

    1. Ducks – 59 points in 47 games
    2. Oilers – 57 in 47
    3. Sharks – 56 in 45

    San Jose has an opportunity to make up that ground with its games in hand. The Kings, on the other hand, see their margin of error for a wild card spot dwindling:

    Second wild card spot: Kings, 48 points in 45 games

    Canucks – 48 in 46
    Predators – 47 in 44
    Stars – 46 in 46
    Jets – 46 in 48

    The Sharks made life easier for themselves while making it tougher for the Kings. If that’s the end of their interactions for 2016-17, Sharks fans should be quite happy.

    Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties

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    Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.

    To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:

    Monday: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 8-7 in an overtime thriller.

    Tuesday: The Dallas Stars managed to hold off the New York Rangers in a 7-6 victory. Plenty of weird things happened beyond all of those goals.

    Wednesday: Red Wings storm back from that 3-0 deficit to eventually win.

    Games like these can be a nightmare for coaches and goalies on both sides, yet Claude Julien was probably especially steamed by this one.

    The Bruins were up 3-0, 4-1 and 5-4 but the Red Wings kept fighting back. As a defensive-minded coach, Julien couldn’t have been happy with his team’s play.

    (That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)

    Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.

    Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.

    Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.

    Pavelec makes highlight reel save, gets win in return to Jets’ net

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28:  Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets dives across to make a first period save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    With an expiring contract, Ondrej Pavelec’s time with the Winnipeg Jets is nearing an end. Plenty of Jets fans would say, mercifully.

    Still, he did return to the Winnipeg Jets net on Wednesday for his first NHL appearance since April 9, 2016, to mostly successful results. The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3, for one thing.

    Beyond that, it probably felt like a typical Pavelec start for many Jets fans, though some would contest that it would also need to involve a loss.

    There were those regrettable moments, like giving up a goal right away:

    Even his critics would probably agree that Pavelec does have a knack for making breathtaking saves:

    It’s unclear how many more times we’ll see Pavelec play for the Jets (or an NHL team in general). His performance – if given more chances – in the near future may determine that answer.

    If nothing else, his 2016-17 debut felt pretty fitting.

    Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark, scores OT-winner (or did he?)

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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    PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.

    You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.

    Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.

    Here’s the clip:

    Update: There’s debate regarding whether McDavid’s overtime-winner should have counted or not, but either way, it’s impressive that he generated a goal and an assist after hitting the 100-point mark. So it’s now 102 points in 92 games.

    Here’s that contested goal: