Charlie Lindgren is headed into his second, full NHL season as the Washington Capitals backup goaltender. Throughout his career, the 29-year-old netminder has jumped between the AHL and the NHL, but was a highly sought-after goalie with NHL promise.
He made his debut with the Montreal Canadiens back in 2015-16, appearing in only one game. After five seasons in Montreal, Lindgren signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Blues heading into the 2021-22 season.
He won all five games he appeared in with St. Louis, and later backstopped the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Blues’ AHL affiliate, to a Calder Cup Final appearance.
The Capitals were looking to revamp their goaltending heading into the 2022-23 season. After locking up their new starter in Darcy Kuemper, who was coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche, Washington signed Lindgren to a three-year deal to be the backup.
In his first full season in D.C., he went 13-11-3 with a 3.05 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. The St. Cloud product appeared in 31 games last season with Washington, and started in 26, which was the most he has played in heading into his eighth season in the NHL.
While those aren’t the greatest numbers, the eye test showed that he was outstanding. The biggest asset that the undrafted goaltender has is his flexibility. He had so many tremendous split saves last season and bailed out the Caps’ defense whenever there were breakdowns.
OH MY GOSH CHARLIE LINDGREN 😱 pic.twitter.com/9u7NTSYGgV
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) December 24, 2022
Lindgren’s best play came in the month of December. When Kuemper went down with an injury on Dec. 4, Lindgren lived up to the task going 9-2-0 in 10 starts and the Capitals went 11-2-2, which was the second-best record in the NHL during the month.
Even when he was labeled as the No. 2, Lindgren had a game-type mindset during practice, which he believed led to his personal success.
“It’s the nature of the backup position, right? Where you’re playing once every 10 days, sometimes once every two weeks. So you’re just finding times where you’re just trying to be sharp and we’re doing 3-on-2 scenarios or 2-on-1’s, you’re kind of treating that like a game,” Lindgren said.
Now heading into his sophomore campaign with Washington, the Lakeville, Minn., native wanted to focus on the details of his game headed into the new season.
“I think a lot of it was just trying to fine tune things like fine tuning things on the pipes, positioning, staying connected body-wise, being in good position, balanced, things like that,” Lindgren said. “I feel like coming off of my first full year in the NHL like I had a lot of good experience to kind of go off of and train off of and I hit the ground running this summer and worked hard.”
The Capitals had a longer summer than they are accustomed to. Typically Washington’s season ends in late April or early May, but after missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, the year ended prematurely in early April. But Lindgren and the Caps took advantage of the longer summer.
“I had a really good summer. I feel like I got a lot of good work in. Now ever since camp started, I just feel like I keep on progressing. I’m getting better and feeling more confident,” Lindgren said. “In practice I feel like I’m stopping a lot of pucks. I’m feeling good. I’m seeing the puck, seeing the puck well, so just from a mindset point of view, I’m just feeling really good about my game.”
He personally liked the way he finished the 2022-23 season despite the fact that the team in front of him was struggling. Though he says that there were some lapses during some of the games he played, he ultimately finished on a high note.
“Looking back on my year last year, I think I’ve progressed as a goalie. I felt more confident,” Lindgren said. Now it’s just building on that and just keep on getting better.”
Lindgren and the Capitals begin the regular season on Oct. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena.
By Jacob Cheris