Given how the Montreal Canadiens had performed in previous seasons when missing Carey Price in net, there was concern the team would continue to be middling without their starting goaltender. Price’s injury doesn’t seem to be long-term, but after a so-so start to the 2017-18 season, the last thing the Canadiens needed was a banged-up netminder.
Thankfully, the Canadiens had 23-year-old rookie Charlie Lindgren waiting in the wings to take over in net once Price went down. Before taking the assumed role of Montreal’s starting goaltender, Lindgren had played just three combined starts with the Canadiens over the last two seasons. In those three games? Lindgren was 3-0 with a .943 save percentage.
Since being called up from the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, at the start of the month, Lindgren has gone 3-1 with a .964 save percentage as he’s allowed just five goals on 138 shots faced. Lindgren would have been 4-0 too in his first four games of the season had the Minnesota Wild not tallied two goals in the third period on Nov. 9 for his first career NHL loss.
Yes, it took three seasons and six games for Lindgren to get his first loss in his NHL career. The young netminder reached a 5-0 career start milestone the Canadiens hadn’t seen since Wayne Thomas did so in 1972-73, then before him the famous Ken Dryden.
It’s still early, but the play of Lindgren has been a saving grace for the Canadiens, who are now two points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens had been playing better before Lindgren made his debut this season, but he’s helped bolster the team in a way Price has yet to do this season.
Price, uncharacteristically, had his worst October ever in his career with an .883 save percentage in 10 games played before being injured after his first start in November. The normally stalwart netminder hasn’t looked like himself this year, as the Canadiens allowed 45 goals in the first month of the season. While their offense wasn’t much help either, the struggles of Price were concerning, to say the least.
Which is why the emergence of Lindgren through his first four games played this season is such a bright spot for the Canadiens. Montreal has since found a way to stabilize themselves offensively thanks to Lindgren making the timely saves when needed.
This, of course, has all the makings of a tried-and-true NHL goaltending controversy. The net is surely Price’s when he returns, as the veteran netminder has been backstopping the Canadiens in goal for 10 years. If Price doesn’t rise to the task, however, the leash may be short with Lindgren playing so well.
As we’ve seen this year in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg, goaltending fortunes can come and go easily with the wind, so Lindgren’s rise could very well be a flash in the pan when all is said and done. In any case, Lindgren’s strong play through four games has helped elevate the Canadiens into a better position than they were in at the start of the month.