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Capitals’ Lindgren Embraces Pressure, Earns First Star Honors



Washington Capitals Charlie Lindgren

Charlie Lindgren has always welcomed the pressure and high stakes that come with being a professional goaltender. So when Darcy Kuemper went down with injury on Dec. 3, the Washington Capitals backup knew he had to rise to the occasion — and he did just that and then some.

Since taking over for Kuemper, Lindgren has been stellar between the pipes, staying cool and collected, controlling the tempo, never giving up on the play and delivering with some highlight-reel saves to boot. His play has paved the way for four straight wins for him, which also marks the longest Capitals winning streak of the season. And, over that span, he has a .949 save percentage and 1.50 GAA. At 5-on-5, the numbers get better with a .957 SV% and 1.26 GAA.

“I feel awesome. I feel great,” Lindgren said. “Every time I go in there, like I said, it’s a great opportunity for myself. I just want to play hard for this team, because they’re playing hard for me. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

The last time that the 28-year-old started four consecutive games was in November 2017, when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He has been in this situation before, where goaltenders are injured and he needs to step up.

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It’s what made him emerge as a big name on the market this offseason, as his 5-0-0 record while filling for Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso put him on general managers’ radars. But at the end of the day, it’s just part of the business for Lindgren, and he credits a lot of that success to the team’s play of late.

“We’ve just played amazing hockey,” Lindgren said. “Honestly, I think it’s been fun to play goal for this team all year long, but especially last few games, we’ve been playing incredible. [We] can’t get complacent, we just got to keep fighting, keep on going to work.”

Lindgren is also satisfied that he has been able to get back on track on a personal level, too. He wasn’t thrilled with his performance in some of the games before filling in for Kuemper, and now he feels like he’s starting to get in a groove.

“I wasn’t overly happy with the way I played, then followed it up with New Jersey. There are a couple there that I wanted back, I wanted to kind of get it going on this road trip, and I got that chance in Edmonton… it helps playing after just playing two nights ago, it feels like you’re maybe in a little bit of a rhythm,” Lindgren said, adding, “But any time I step into that crease — it doesn’t matter if it’s after two nights or after two weeks — I think I have that mindset that I can go in there do my job and help the team win.”

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As he continues on in his first full NHL season with Washington, Lindgren’s play is speaking volumes, and he is also rising to occasion in high-danger situations for the Capitals. Over this four-game stretch, the Minnesota native has stopped 50 of 52 shots (.962 SV%) in the third period and has also stopped 49 of 51 shots (.961 SV%) with Washington leading.

“He’s been playing unreal,” Anthony Mantha said. “Obviously he knew he had to step up when Darcy was out and that’s exactly what he’s been doing. He shows that he’s a great goaltender.”

Kuemper joined the Capitals on Sunday in Winnipeg and could be back as soon as Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, as he is eligible to come off the injured reserve at any time now. For Lindgren, though, the focus is on doing what he can to keep the group playing to its highest potential as the team sits one point out of a Wild Card spot. He is also happy to continue playing high-stakes hockey, where he embraces the lion as his spirit animal.

“I welcome the pressure,” Lindgren said. “Throughout my career, I’ve been through a bunch of adversity. But it’s never stopped me. I’ve kept on pushing. I’m a hard guy to knock down.

“It’s more so just probably a mindset. Having that confidence, it’s not a cockiness,” he said matter-of-factly. “I feel like I’m capable of doing a lot of big things. That’s kind of the way I look at it. Certainly lions, they’re big, physical and mean. Am I big, physical and mean? Maybe not. But I think it’s more of a mentality. No one wants to mess with a lion.”