Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Niklas Backstrom: 5 Autographed Cards (Part 1)

I got not one but a couple of tremendous returns today - both from Minnesota, coincidentally! Here's the first one:
How cool is that? Niklas Backstrom was one of the best and most consistent goalies in the NHL from 2006 until the end of the locked-out season in 2012-13. Before crossing the Atlantic, however, the Finn of Swedish descent had dominated the Finnish Elite League, leading his team Oulun Kärpät to two straight championships and winning the best goalie award and playoff MVP title twice in the process.

After winning a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics and bronze at the 2006 World Championships with Team Finland, he signed with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent and started the 2006-07 season as Manny Fernandez' backup, inheriting the #1 mantle when Fernandez fell to injury, and not letting it go until injuries forced him to share duties with Josh Harding in 2013-14, as he was limited to 21 games.

He represented the Wild in an All-Star Game, holds the team's career (189 and counting) and season (37) wins records as well as single-season shutout record (8), was nominated for a Vezina, and won two more bronze medals (2008 World Championships and 2010 Olympics) with Finland, playing behind the best goalie of his generation in Miikka Kiprusoff. He also won the Jennings (best team GAA) and Crozier (best save percentage) trophies in 2006-07.

Backstrom has a near-perfect technique, a blend of the already-excellent stand-up/covering-the-angles style he used in Europe and the improved butterfly he picked up in North America; a fearless, fierce and focused competitor, his only imperfection is the 5-hole (between the legs), which he counters by making up for in positioning.

Here he is in the Wild's red (home) uniform:
The card on the left is from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Collector's Choice (card #74 in the set) and shows him following the puck as it moves from behind the net to the corner, sharp and attentive; the card on the right is from In The Game's 2010-11 Between The Pipes set (#128 in the collection, part of the Stars Of The Game sub-set), and has a great view of the Wild's main logo on his mask - a nice way to get around copyright issues for ITG.

The Wild also have an alternate home uniform, in green, with a College-style cursive font in front, as seen in this 2013-14 O-Pee-Chee card (#478 in the collection) by UD:
I like that OPC tried to re-create similar designs to those of my youth, but the un-matching colour schemes tend to make me nauseous a bit; the light blue could have easily been dark green to fit, or even just plain black.

                                 (continued in the following post)

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