March is a pretty crazy time for hockey scheduling. For one, many of the major arenas in this country will be hosting college basketball events, which causes teams to take some robust road trips at important times. Nashville is no different. Next week the NCAA tournament comes to town, and the Preds head out on the road all week to the West Coast. Lucky them, huh?
While the defensive depth and the surplus of forwards have served nicely this year for the whole of the season, the workload will test this team with 3 back-to-backs coming in this month alone. The seed in the playoffs this team will earn will likely be determined by a very unlikely player; our favorite young Swedish boy, Anders Lindback.
For better or worse, I was a fan of Anders being traded for something reliable and veteran. While his value is at his lowest point now and it’s better long term that he’s here, having that 20+ game a year guy would’ve been great for Rinne. Pekka does like the workload, and plays better usually when he faces more shots. His play took off after he get the nod over Ellis for good in the 2009-2010 campaign, and never looked back. We’re married to Pekka Rinne at least for seven years. I’m more than ok with that.
Anders hasn’t had his best stuff at times this year. That’s expected, he is a project of Mitch Korn and still very green and young. And to be fair, he hasn’t been put in fair situations (on the road vs. the Rangers, Flyers, Hurricanes while they were hot, etc) to get some solid numbers. With the schedule containing back-to-backs against the Kings/Ducks, Jets/Blackhawks, and Wings/Blackhawks, Lindback will need to play some big minutes, and will face some of the best forwards in the league.
Lindback so far is posting a modest 2.76 GAA, but a very pedestrian .896 save percentage. Let’s hope the playing time increase will help him find his game. The last thing we need is a tired and sore Pekka Rinne going against a rested and focused Jaroslav Halak or Roberto Luongo. When Rinne gets tired, he tries to do too much. The loss against the Kings showed that.
Let’s be real, Anders Lindback is about a year or two away from being a decent starting goalie in the NHL. His value will only increase with more starts. While Pekka does play great and does absorb a tremendous amount of minutes, he does need that 20 start backup so he’s not running on fumes. When the Blues shipped off Bob Bishop for a second rounder, it wasn’t due to a lack of talent, it was due to Brian Elliot taking his job. If Anders gets more time and keeps improving, there are plenty of GMs willing to overpay for him. Mitch Korn projects tend to make good goalies. Hasek, Vokoun, and now Rinne. Korn loves Lindback, and sings praises of his potential. There’s no way we can keep Anders as a backup for 7 years, he’s too good.
Can Anders answer the bell this month? Quite a bit is riding on it. We won’t have to wait long to find out.