Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning endures youth in net

BOSTON — Here's the thing about Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback: He continues to make saves worthy of any how-to video. But he also keeps allowing bad goals.

Take Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Devils. His stunning right-leg stop of Stefan Matteau's redirect with 18 seconds left in the first preserved a 0-0 tie. But in the second, Lindback lost track of the puck after Anton Volchenkov's blue-line slap shot hit him in the chest, and Adam Henrique easily knocked in the rebound for a 1-0 lead.

In every game, Lindback has allowed at least one soft goal. He always says the right things, that he has to learn from it and apply it going forward.

That was fine while the Lightning scored goals in bunches. But now that games have settled into tight-checking, playoff-type affairs, those soft goals that had been part of a learning curve are liabilities. If they continue, they no doubt will test the patience of coach Guy Boucher.

"We have to have a lot of patience because he's young," Boucher said. "That's the reality. Let's say it like it is: That first goal (against the Devils), I know eventually those won't go in."

Lindback, 24, has played just 46 NHL games — 38 the past two seasons as the backup to Nashville's Pekka Rinne — so there is validity to Boucher's forward-looking sentiment. And Lindback shows flashes of spectacular ability.

In the meantime, Boucher said, "He's just a young goaltender that has to live through all the experiences a No. 1 guy has to go through."

Lindback is 5-3-0. That's not bad, but his 2.89 goals-against average entered Saturday 23rd among goalies with at least five games, and his .905 save percentage was 20th.

In other words, for all Bou­cher's explanation about how Sami Salo and Matt Carle have "transformed" the Lightning's defense, it doesn't mean much if your goalie doesn't stop the puck.

That's not saying Lindback won't eventually be a good No. 1. It's just going to take him time to get there. As Boucher said, "I love my garden. I want it to grow because I know what it's going to look like three years from now. But if I pull at it, it's gone. You've got to water it, and eventually it's growing. But it's growing at its own pace. I think it's important we respect that."

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