Montreal Canadiens rookie goalie Charlie Lindgren skated out before 15,000 Carolina Hurricanes fans Thursday night. They were gathered in Raleigh’s PNC Arena for their team’s final home game of the 2015-16 season. The visiting Habs were going to get their first look at Lindgren on NHL ice.
Both teams had previously been eliminated from playoff contention, and were winding down their respective seasons. While it cannot be said that either team “mailed it in” it can be asserted that the 15,000 in attendance were treated to sloppy hockey and a fine performance by Habs rookie goalie Lindgren.
‘Canes Looked Good at First
The Hurricanes came out looking ready and almost sharp, playing with intensity and ready to take advantage of Lindgren’s NHL debut. At 1:34 in the first period ‘Canes forward Riley Nash sent a shot right by Lindgren, giving Carolina the early 1-0 lead.
There was a sense in the arena that this was shaping up early to be a blowout for the Hurricanes. However, it wasn’t going to turn out that way at all. A period characterized by missed passes, errant pucks and a pace that was not intense from either team led me to think, “I’m watching sloppy hockey.”
This was not the Hurricanes team that was fighting for its playoff life a week ago. Nor was it the extremely horrid performance they put out this past Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets that sealed the team’s playoffs doom. It was just sloppy hockey.
To their credit the Canadiens did not roll over. They certainly could have resigned themselves to a loss with the attitude, “What does it matter?” Instead they pressed in and right before the period’s end, tied the score as Darren Dietz scored his first NHL goal:
Dietz’s goal came at 19:50 in the first, 10 seconds left before the intermission. It was a special moment for Dietz, but took away some of the little air that was in the ‘Canes’ momentum balloon.
“A Sloppiness We Haven’t Seen”
Riding home from the post-game interviews and presser with Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters, I caught a bit of “The Aftermath” radio show with Mike Maniscalco. During his segment with Hurricanes television play-by-play voice John Forslund, they talked about the disappointing effort from Carolina. Forslund said,
“There was a sloppiness we have not seen.”
I felt good from the standpoint of knowing that others had seen what I saw as sloppy hockey. At the same time, I felt bad for the “Caniacs” that came out to support their team and were treated to a sloppy effort.
The pace of the game picked up in period two, and Noah Hanifin brought the home fans to their feet with this goal:
There really was a sense that it was only a matter of time before the Hurricanes would begin to abuse Lindgren, but that thought never materialized. Hanifin has cemented his place as a rookie who belongs in the NHL, but his effort would not be enough to compensate for the rest of the team against the Habs.
A Win for Lindgren
Lindgren shut down the ‘Canes for the remainder of the game, saving 26 of 28 shots, a great first outing. With Carey Price out for most of the season, the Habs are pleased to have gotten Lindgren on the ice. My colleague at The Hockey Writers, Brianne Spiker wrote an article a few days ago entitled “Why the Charlie Lindgren Signing Was Important for Montreal.” Spiker made this observation in her post:
“With Carey Price’s injury, the other goalies in the organization were quickly pushed into bigger roles with mixed results. Adding another goalie gives the organization more balance, and more importantly, it creates more competition for everyone else.”
While no one is saying that Lindgren is the immediate future of Montreal goaltending, the team is definitely happy to have him in the system.
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) April 8, 2016
The Canadiens put four goals in on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Ward’s future in Carolina is up in the air as his contract is up at the end of the season. Some feel he should be re-signed while others feel it’s time for a change in between the pipes in Raleigh.
The rookie, Lindgren and the veteran Ward with a Stanley Cup on his resume squared off, and this time the rookie won. In doing so, Lindgren joined an elite group of Habs goaltenders:
Charlie Lindgren: 6th #Canadiens goalie since 1987-88 to win his NHL debut, joining M. Condon, C. Price, J. Halak, Yann Danis & J-C Bergeron
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) April 8, 2016
The contrast is striking as both face futures that are unknown. Will Lindgren make it in the NHL? Will Ward stay with the Canes?
Both teams need confidence in-goal and Montreal has that in a healthy Carey Price. Having Lindgren in the stable is a good thing, also.
The Hurricanes will have to decide where to place their confidence over the next few months. It may very well be in Ward. It’s doubtful that it will be in Eddie Lack. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis has a lot of cap space and a lot of draft picks to barter with.
One thing is certain; Francis’ decisions will not look like his team’s Thursday night play against the Habs. There will be no sloppy hockey from the front office in Raleigh.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.