📝 by Patrick Williams
Springfield Thunderbirds goaltender Charlie Lindgren has one priority this spring: a Calder Cup.
Defeating the Laval Rocket, his former American Hockey League club, is a means toward reaching that goal. No more. No less.
“It’s funny,” Lindgren said with a chuckle late last week before his Thunderbirds and Laval began the Eastern Conference Finals. “I was talking to a Montreal reporter, and I could tell he was kind of trying to stir the pot a little.”
While there has been some media pot-stirring surrounding Lindgren’s past time in the Montreal Canadiens organization and this match-up against the Rocket, Lindgren is not partaking in helping to feed any media narratives. Game 3 tonight against the Rocket at Place Bell (7 ET, AHLTV) is the focus.
At some point seeing Rocket athletic trainer Glen Kinney again will be nice. Laval goaltending and video coach Marco Marciano, too. (“I’m Marco’s biggest fan… I can’t wait to see him,” Lindgren said.)
Same with Rocket netminder Cayden Primeau, Lindgren’s former understudy. Any game at Place Bell is worth experiencing, let alone one in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Beyond that, however, Lindgren is all business with his Thunderbirds within seven wins of a Calder Cup. Besides, with management, coaching, and roster changes, many familiar faces from Lindgren’s time with the organization no longer are in Laval. Lindgren also has already made a homecoming, posting 31 saves in a 5-2 Springfield win at Place Bell back on March 7.
But that was the regular season. This stage is the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Certainly the 28-year-old Lindgren has history with both the Canadiens and the Rocket. In March 2016 he signed a two-year entry-level contract with Montreal following three seasons at St. Cloud State University. He made his NHL debut that spring and spent the next five seasons between the Canadiens and their AHL affiliates in St. John’s and Laval.
But after last season, spent entirely on taxi-squad duty with Montreal save for three games with the Rocket, Lindgren knew that he needed a new start.
That chance came with the St. Louis Blues, who welcomed Lindgren with a new one-year contract, an arrangement that has served both sides well. Lindgren has been able to provide the Thunderbirds with veteran goaltending, serve as a partner to young prospect Joel Hofer, and act as a capable recall option in St. Louis when needed.
“I really couldn’t ask for anything better this year,” Lindgren said. “It’s been a blast.”
Lindgren went 5-0-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average and a .958 save percentage over an 11-day span with the Blues in December. One of those wins was a 22-save night against the visiting Canadiens.
The Blues also turned to Lindgren to back up Ville Husso after Jordan Binnington’s injury in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He dressed for the final three games of their second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s been so huge,” Lindgren said of moving on to the St. Louis organization. “It’s no secret. You ask anyone who was on a taxi squad. It just was not a fun situation.
“I was excited to get a fresh new start. St. Louis has been such a blessing.”
When Lindgren arrived at training camp with St. Louis last September, he had a chance to work with Blues goaltending coach David Alexander, and that work has extended to goaltending development coach Dan Stewart as well. A National Hockey League full-time job is within sight, and Lindgren has no shortage of motivation in pursuing that goal.
“They’ve definitely helped out with my game,” Lindgren said. “I think the big thing is I had a really good summer. I worked extremely hard. And I think obviously I’ve used my past experiences as a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I think when I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder, that’s when I’m at my best, and it’s a chip on my shoulder that has kind of lasted all year.”
This season in Springfield, Lindgren was 24-7-1 with three shutouts, a 2.21 GAA, and a .925 save percentage across 34 games. He started the Thunderbirds’ playoff run with a 50-save effort in a 4-1 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 11.
With three games in four nights this week, Thunderbirds head coach Drew Bannister is served well to have two capable goaltenders ready to go in Lindgren and Hofer.
“Super proud, I think, would be a way to kind of describe my feelings,” Lindgren said of Springfield’s playoff run so far. “And also not satisfied.
“It’s still a long ways to go to get to where we ultimately want to get to.”
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports, and is currently the co-host of The Hockey News On The ‘A’ podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.