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Laval Rocket season review: An off year for Charlie Lindgren

It was an up-and-down season for the goaltender.

Club de Hockey Canadien

At 25 years old, Charlie Lindgren is an intriguing goaltender prospect. In the Montreal system since the end of 2016, he has been solid in the NHL but is struggling in the AHL.

For a while, Lindgren was seen as a potential starter in the NHL. Most pictured him like a Cam Talbot — a backup that would do well behind a starter, signed long term who could be used as a trading chip to upgrade another position.

Turns out, as much as Lindgren shone during his time in the NHL, his struggles in the AHL makes him a curious case. The question now is, which Lindgren is the real one?

As things stand right now, he is in the position of being good enough to play in the NHL, albeit in a more limited role. The issue with that line of thinking is that as we move into this new era of NHL, teams are becoming more and more reliant on a good backup to give them an edge. Teams are expecting a backup goaltender to play upward of 20 games per season, yet maintain a good relationship with the starter all the while keeping their edge for when they’ll be called to action. It is a tough, yet important, job that requires the player to be able to shoulder long stretches of not playing.

But with Lindgren, should we still consider him a prospect at this stage in his career? What’s more, with Michael McNiven looking better than him in the AHL and Cayden Primeau turning pro at the end of this year, the goaltender depth is becoming quite complex. And that’s without picturing the possibility of Connor LaCouvee returning.

Lindgren spent a portion of the year injured, which could have affected his ability to play at the highest level. But still, his stats in the AHL aren’t pretty. In 33 games played, his 2.94 GAA and .884 SVS% paint a rough picture of his year with Laval. Despite his inconsistent play between the pipes, the organization thought he was worth bringing up in March to secure the backup position behind Price.

Nonetheless, Lindgren can pull out incredible saves when he is on his game. During the final game against the Leafs, he played relatively well. Using his body, tracking the puck and limiting useless movements, he came up big in a few key situations as seen in the clip below (and above).

His athleticism can’t be denied. Lindgren seems to have all the tools necessary to carve a spot on a NHL team. He possess a sound technical foundation and limits rebounds. What’s more, Lindgren is quite handy with his glove. He is fairly strong when flashing the leather and is often able to cleanly make a save with his glove.

Lindgren feels like a half-polished product. We can clearly see what the final product could look like with a little more consistency from him and an opportunity to shine. This means figuring out what is making him outperform his AHL stats in the NHL. From my point of view, this would seem to be related to his environment, most likely the system in which he plays and the quality of teammates surrounding him. Which means he needs a good supporting cast and a system in which he can thrive.

In such a situation, Lindgren is able to play aggressively and to his hearts content. He’s able to track the puck well, trust his teammates to cover for his rebounds if he fails to contain himself, and offer a solid performance between the pipes. But for that to happen, he needs to prove that he can play and be a difference-maker on a daily basis and when called upon. Lindgren is a warrior and has battled throughout his career to prove he belongs. I think he will continue doing so but he needs to be put in a situation where he can succeed. To get that, he needs to show that his glimpses of talent at the NHL level were not something that were a ‘one and done’ type thing.

‘‘It’s easy to look at Charlie Lindgren’s numbers this year and immediately be disappointed, and he himself has said as much during the locker clean out in Laval. There’s no reason to panic over his down season though, the Rocket and the Canadiens should drastically improve next year and regardless of which league he’s in, Lindgren will bounce back. His downturn in the stats column isn’t through a loss of ability, but more due to being able to keep up with the insane workload asked of him. New coaches and systems should tighten up some of the flaws, and with that Lindgren’s athletic ability should shine through and allow him to return to the form that made him an AHL All-Star in his rookie year.’’

This is a quote from last year’s review and is still very much true to this day. But at some point, he needs to find a system in which he can really shine and use all of his toolkit. He is definitively a pro-goaltender, now it’s just to figure out at which level that is.

Next year could be the last chance Lindgren has to show the high-ups in Montreal that is he worth keeping in the organization. The backup position could very well end up being his to lose. This will be an opportunity to see if Lindgren still has the potential that many have seen in him since he joined the organization.