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Antti Niemi’s and Charlie Lindgren’s season review: How did the backups fare?

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The secondary netminders were out in full force last season. Catch up on this week’s articles, and grade their performance.

Montreal Canadiens v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With Carey Price playing just 49 games last season, it’s a lucky thing he had a few good men to have his back.

Three disastrous starts with the Pittsburgh Penguins and two with the Florida Panthers had 34-year-old Antti Niemi concerned about his future in the NHL. That is, until Marc Bergevin swooped in and scooped him up off waivers. With 19 starts for the Montreal Canadiens, he ended up going from the worst stretch of his career to the highest save percentage since his 2012-13 campaign with the San Jose Sharks.

Niemi’s strong performance earned him the nod as Montreal’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and a one-year contract extension.

With injuries taking out both Price and Al Montoya last season, Charlie Lindgren was called up from the Laval Rocket to help ease the pain. In his first five NHL games this season he posted a 3-1-1 record and recorded his first NHL shutout.

Lindgren looked poised to steal the backup position right out from under Montoya, holding his own with no games under a .920 save percentage. That is, until the trifecta happened: Montoya was put on the Injured Reserve list, injuries to other teammates weakened the team around him, and Niemi came aboard.

Lindgren managed to post his second NHL shutout during his second call-up before heading back down to the AHL, where he had a less-than-stellar season, albeit not for lack of trying. One goaltender can only do so much without a focused team in front of him to help.

Niemi may have signed a one-year extension, but Lindgren penned a new three-year deal himself, and at 24 years old, Lindgren has already proved that he can handle the pressures of the NHL.

After stepping into Habs gear, Niemi was one of the best backup goaltenders in the league last season. His .929 save percentage was tied for fourth in the NHL among goalies with more than three starts. Even when comparing his numbers (minus those five horrible pre-Hab games) he held his own with his Canadiens peers.

Lindgren and Niemi are the latest pair to battle for a chance to be Price’s backup in a string of many over the past seven seasons. Anyone remember Alex Auld?

So, the one-million-dollar question is: who should receive the honour of backing Price for the upcoming season? The veteran who has 10 seasons under his belt and is heading into his twilight NHL years? Or the goalie who’s 10 years his junior and has already proven himself up for a little NHL-level play?

If nothing else, we can at least say that the Canadiens are fortunate to have such goaltending depth and two skilled options for the 2018-19 season. But let’s face it: the real goal here is to have a healthy Carey Price so it doesn’t really matter who’s supporting him.

Poll

How do you grade Antti Niemi’s 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    A+
    (12 votes)
  • 26%
    A
    (26 votes)
  • 21%
    A-
    (21 votes)
  • 21%
    B+
    (21 votes)
  • 10%
    B
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    B-
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    C+
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    C
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    C-
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (1 vote)
97 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How do you grade Charlie Lindgren’s 2017-18 season?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    A+
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    A
    (13 votes)
  • 5%
    A-
    (5 votes)
  • 26%
    B+
    (24 votes)
  • 16%
    B
    (15 votes)
  • 14%
    B-
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    C+
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    C
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    C-
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    F
    (2 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now