'I have a chip on my shoulder': Habs goalie Charlie Lindgren on proving the scouts wrong
The 23-year-old feels that the snub from 30 NHL clubs at the 2012 and 2013 drafts made him more determined than ever to make it in hockey's highest league.
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BROSSARD, Que. — Charlie Lindgren says being passed over twice in the NHL draft was a blessing.
The 23-year-old, who has been thrust into the starting goaltender's job on the Montreal Canadiens with starter Carey Price and backup Al Montoya injured, feels that the snub from 30 NHL clubs at the 2012 and 2013 drafts made him more determined than ever to make it in hockey's highest league.
"I have a chip on my shoulder because I wasn't drafted," he said Friday. "I have no clue (why).
"My second year of eligibility I was the U.S. junior goalie of the year and never got picked. It was phenomenal. I'm so thankful I wasn't picked."
Lindgren played junior for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the top American junior circuit, the USHL, but it wasn't until after his third season at St. Cloud State University that he signed as a free agent with Montreal.
He has worked mainly in the American Hockey League since then, but has been impressive in three short call-ups to the Canadiens, posting a 5-1-0 record with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage.
His latest stint may last longer than expected. The Lakeville, Minn., native was hailed from the Laval Rocket last week when Price went down with a "minor" lower-body injury and ended up starting the last three games. Price worked out in equipment Thursday and Friday but coach Claude Julien said the 2015 Hart and Vezina trophy winner remains a "day-to-day" case.
On Friday came the surprise announcement that Montoya has an upper-body injury. There was no word on how long he will be out of action. Zach Fucale was called up from Laval on an emergency basis.
Julien said Price would be put on injured reserve retroactive to a week ago, so he could be activated as early as Saturday night, when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Bell Centre.
If not, they still have Lindgren, who saw his five-game NHL winning streak end with a 3-0 loss Thursday night to his home state team, the Minnesota Wild. Lindgren was sharp in that game too, making 32 saves, but Devan Dubnyk stopped all 41 Montreal shots.
In three games this season, Lindgren has a 1.35 average and .961 save percentage, and he picked up his first NHL shutout last Sunday in Chicago.
"It's unfortunate, the circumstances, but it's the next man up mentality," said Lindgren. "I just want to go in, do my job and give my team a chance to win.
"I've been fortunate enough to play a lot of games. I feel I play my best hockey when I'm playing a lot. Right now I feel like I'm in a groove. I'm going out and playing, not even thinking."
No matter how well he does, there will always be a question about his long-term future with the team. Last summer, Price signed an eight-year US$85-million contract extension that only kicks in next season.
"Price is one of the best goalies in the NHL, there's no doubt about that, but it's so beneficial to learn from him," said Lindgren. "(Goalie coach) Steph Waite, same thing.
"I've been super thankful to be part of this organization."
Price and Montoya have struggled early in the season. They have identical 3.77 goals-against averages. So Lindgren's play has been a relief.
"It's a plus for our team to have three goalies who can do well," said Julien. "When you look at the situation we're in, it's nice to have a goalie who can give us the kind of games he's been giving us."
But now, with both Price and Montoya out, there will be no safety net should Lindgren falter.
"There were zero issues on putting him in the net no matter what the situation is," said Julien. "So far, in our lineup with the big club, he's always played well.
"He played well again (Thursday) night. Either by necessity or choice, it doesn't matter, we as an organization and his teammates have confidence in him and in our goaltending, period."
Defenceman Shea Weber (lower body) and centre Jonathan Drouin (upper body), who both missed the Minnesota game, were back on skates and there is a chance that one or both will play.