The Montreal Canadiens have had a backup goaltender start just eight games this season. Keith Kinkaid got the first five, surrendering five goals in the first one and four in the last four he played before getting placed on waivers and demoted to the AHL. Cayden Primeau came up when he went down, allowing three goals in his first NHL start and then two to grab his first NHL win, but at just 20 years of age, his stay with the Canadiens wasn’t meant to last. His future is as a starter in the NHL, and rushing him to the top league is not his path forward.
Last night, Charlie Lindgren was the third backup to get his shot, though he’s a familiar face for Canadiens fans. His first start of 2019-20 was the 18th of his tenure with the organization, already seeing over 1000 minutes of NHL action. Claude Julien decided to use Price in the back-to-back divisional games versus Tampa Bay and Florida. Since they were both losses, there was no reason not to turn to Lindgren for the final game of the road trip.
Julien re: decision to start Lindgren tonight: “You can’t go the whole season with just one goaltender. Somebody’s gotta come in and help you win some games. This is probably a good time for him to come in and give Carey a bit of a rest...tonight, he’s gotta do the job for us.— Dan Robertson (@DanRTSN) December 31, 2019
Lindgren took the lofty challenge presented to him for his first start since April, and did everything that could have been asked of him to help earn that win — and more. He allowed two goals before he was called to the bench in the dying minutes as Montreal sought an equalizer, but the Carolina Hurricanes would have had at least three if not for his interventions.
Not long after the drop of the puck in the third period, the Hurricanes went on a power play. Lindgren dropped to stop a shot to his left, and the puck made its way to his right. Sebastian Aho was looking at a gaping net, but milliseconds after he poked the puck, he saw a quick flash of leather in his vision instead of the puck crossing the line, robbed by the right hand of Lindgren on one of the saves of the season.
That stop kept Montreal in the game, and for a moment they had the game back in a tie before another goaltender interference challenge went against them minutes later.
In any of the other six games played on the road since December 23, allowing two goals would have been enough for a win. Last night was the first time since the final home game versus the Detroit Red Wings that Montreal managed fewer than three goals; tough timing for a netminder still trying to establish an NHL career.
Nevertheless, there is nothing to complain about with regard to Lindgren’s play (outside of a few puck-handling bobbles). There’s no reason to look at any other option when there’s a goaltender with a career 2.89 goals-against average and .912 save percentage already with the club.