Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Danault – Shaw
Galchenyuk – Drouin – Lehkonen
Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher
De La Rose – McCarron – Mitchell
Mete – Weber
Alzner – Petry
Morrow – Benn
David Schlemko – hand, Ales Hemsky – concussion symptoms, Nikita Scherbak – knee, Carey Price – lower-body, Charles Hudon – upper-body
“Lindgren has struggled with a 3-3-2 record at Laval this season. His GAA is 3.35 and save percentage is .852.”
Prior to the Canadiens game in Chicago, we saw quite a number of these quotes. The one above is from a member of the maintream media. He feels confident to argue that Charlie Lindgren is struggling, despite not having been present for one minute of the young goaltender’s 57 AHL games.
Many questioned the decision to recall Lindgren. Some went further, promoting the name of Zach Fucale. All of these grand conclusions were arrived at by reading a stat line. Sorry, accurate analysis doesn’t work like that.
The 23-year-old more than proved that he was the right choice to man the net at the United Center. Lindgren was superb in a 38-save performance, recording his fourth NHL win in as many starts and his first shutout.
Lindgren was sharp in the first period, and he had to be, as the Blackhawks outshot the Canadiens 14-9. He made a spectacular save with 1:39 left in the opening frame, sprawling across the crease to make a pad save on Jonathan Toews.
The Hawks repeated their 14-9 shot advantage in the second period and Lindgren was up to the test again. None other than Patrick Kane was stymied, not once but twice in the middle frame by Lindgren.
He got the call to start in the biggest stage in the NHL and Lindgren looked poised from the outset, quickly establishing that he was in a groove. He continued that right to the end of the game with the Hawks pressing hard in the final minutes.
The Canadiens blueline was better at times in their own zone but this was mostly accomplished by significantly restricting the icetime of Victor Mete and Joe Morrow with just over 10 minutes each. Karl Alzner, Jeff Petry and Jordie Benn were all in the 22 minute range while the workhorse, Shea Weber, logged almost 28 minutes of icetime. Weber had played 29 minutes in Winnipeg on Saturday night.
While primarily playing with four defenseman is an approach that seems to be necessary to compensate for a fragile blueline at the moment, it is obviously not sustainable. And it puts a great deal of responsibility on the goaltender to come up with an outstanding performance as Lindgren did tonight.
Up front, Alex Galchenyuk has jumpstarted the 5-on-5 play of Jonathan Drouin, setting up the Canadiens number one centre for the game-winner. For Drouin, it was just his third goal of the season. But just as Weber is key for the defence, it is Artturi Lehkonen who is the engine of the Canadiens first line, doing the heavy-lifting on the forecheck and puck retrieval.
Andrew Shaw had another strong game. Shaw led the team with five hits and made life difficult for former teammate Corey Crawford. Tomas Plekanec was 79 per cent on faceoffs and led a penalty-killing crew that was perfect on the night.
When Marc Bergevin made his ‘the solution is in the room’ speech, Charlie Lindgren wasn’t there. For at least one game, it took an injection of talent from outside the room to ensure that the fortunes of the Canadiens were indeed turning.
Bergevin must decide now if he will use his cash on hand and his assets to shore up his weak defence and to add a piece to his top six. After a massive three-team deal was consummated in the NHL today, the ‘trades are really hard’ excuse no longer holds much water.
▲ Charlie Lindgren, Shea Weber, Artturi Lehkonen, Tomas Plekanec, Andrew Shaw, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk