Minn. native seeing dream come true playing goalie for Canadiens
MONTREAL—Lakeville native Charlie Lindgren still recalls sitting in his third-grade classroom, a boy with a dream.
"I remember the teacher asking the students, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' " Lindgren said this week. "I always said, 'I want to be an NHL player' without even really thinking about it. I've always believed in myself."
A little more than a decade later, Lindgren is living his dream as a member of the NHL's most-storied franchise, the Montreal Canadiens.
Lindgren, 23, has taken the rabid fan base by storm while filling in for star goaltender Carey Price. He's 2-1-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage this season. In six career starts, Lindgren is 5-1-0 in six starts.
His only loss came in Thursday in the Wild's 3-0 victory at Bell Centre.
"It was obviously pretty surreal playing the Wild, the team I had season tickets to growing up," Lindgren said. "That was definitely my favorite team, so it was a lot of fun playing against them."
How big a Wild fan was Lindgren? As an aspiring goaltender, his idol wasn't a legend like Dominik Hasek or Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy.
"It was Manny Fernandez," he said. "This was back when I was 10 years old, so I just really took a liking to him."
"Obviously, I liked Marian Gaborik, too, and Andrew Brunette and Richard Park and Wes Walz and Darby Hendrickson," Lindgren added. "I could keep going."
So, yes, Thursday's game against the Wild meant a little more. He made 32 saves with his parents, Bob and Jennifer, watching from the stands.
"Not bad for kid from Lakeville, Minnesota," Lindgren said with a smile postgame. "I don't think many people thought I'd get to this point."
Lindgren wasn't exactly a big-time prospect. He went undrafted after starting to make a name for himself at Lakeville North and playing a year for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. It was at St. Cloud State that his stock began to rise.
He played three seasons for the Huskies and was named 2016 National Collegiate Hockey Conference Goaltender Of the Year and played in the NCAA Tournament as a junior before forgoing his senior season to sign with the Canadiens. Since turning pro, he has spent most of his time with Montreal's American Hockey League team in Hamilton, Ontario., but is proving he can play in the NHL.
"You don't see a ton of Minnesota goalies make it to the NHL, so it's definitely an honor to be here," Lindgren said. "It's been a really good stretch. I've played six games now and I've felt really good in all of them."
Lindgren knows Price will return from his injury, which could push him into the backup role or even back to the minors. "You never know in this business," he said. "I'm just worried about coming to the rink every day and working hard and we'll see where that takes me."
Lindgren is hoping it at least takes him out of the team hotel he's living in at the moment. "I've got my own place about 45 minutes away (in Hamilton)," Lindgren said. "This is just easier right now. It'd definitely be nice to get my own place."
As he starts to lay down roots in his new home, Lindgren clearly hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"No doubt Minnesota will always be home," Lindgren added. "Just a lot of old memories there."
In the meantime, though, Lindgren will continue to make new memories in his new home.