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Anders Lindback is an anti-tank grenade. Since he was acquired by Buffalo in mid-February, the 6-foot-6 Swedish goaltender has gone 1-3-2 with a 2.41 goals against average and .934 save percentage.
To most hockey followers, these numbers would be considered pedestrian at best – with the exception of the save percentage. But if you’re Buffalo management, and you want to increase your chances of grabbing Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel with the first or second pick in the NHL draft, they’re quite bad.
What makes the 26-year-old Lindback the wrong guy for the Sabres’ master plan? It’s a mixture of talent, an expiring one-year contract and desire to prove he’s still an NHL-level goaltender after three tough years.
Back in the summer of 2012, Lindback was a hot commodity. He was considered a Pekka Rinne clone, and a surefire NHL starter after two straight years of backing up with the Nashville Predators.
But he never found his starting footing in two years with Tampa or this year in Dallas – where his highest save percentage at all stops was .902, until he got to the Sabres.
We chatted with Lindback via phone about his current goals, his time with the Lightning, what’s wrong with the Stars, and of course what’s gone right for him in Buffalo.
Q: How many times have you heard the names Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel since you got to Buffalo?
Lindback: A couple of times … ha
Is it getting annoying at all? I mean, you probably hear about them all the time?
I totally understand it with where we are in the standings. I can’t stress enough, the guys on this team, we’re not just working for a contract, I feel like everyone is working for everyone on this team. It’s pretty impressing to see as a group. It’s fun to be a part of that. When guys come to the rink every day and try to get better, but of course, this is not where you want to be in any organization. You want to look up and see what you can do to get better.
Would you like to play with Eichel or McDavid in Buffalo next year?
I’ll play anywhere where I have a chance to play, and so far I really like it here.
What is the situation like there? We’ve heard so much about the tanking. Give us the details.
Everyone is professional about it. We’re all here to win hockey games and get better and that’s the approach we get. It’s no secret, everybody knows what’s out there, but we don’t talk about that. We talk about how we’re going to play against this team, what we’re going to do to try to win the game. That’s our focus and our mindset, and it almost has to be.
What’s it like working with Arturs Irbe, Buffalo’s goaltending coach? He’s kind of a pseudo Latvian legend.
It has been great. Obviously he played for such a long time, and he knows what it’s about. With that much experience we recognize all the situations and stuff like that. It has been a good couple of weeks. We haven’t really changed too much because it’s such a short time, but it’s small things here and there and I like working with him.
How have you been able to gain confidence in Buffalo, in spite of the losses?
I really feel this year from the beginning of the season and the preseason I felt comfortable, and really felt like I had one bad game in Dallas, and other than that, I haven’t had the results and maybe one goal here or there, but I’ve been feeling really good and confident. I’ve just been waiting for my chances to improve myself. I looked at the trade to Buffalo as a great opportunity for me, so that’s kind of how I tried to approach it. It has gone OK so far.
I really just look at it as a great opportunity to play for myself. I want to win, I want to give my team, it doesn’t matter where I play, a chance to win the game. I’m really impressed with the guys herein Buffalo for the situation we’re in, how hard everyone works and how we come together for being where we are. I try not to look too far ahead. I just hope to get more playing time and get more wins hopefully. Then things will turn out the way they turn out. I’m kind of happy right now to be playing and hopefully get some more wins and points here coming up.
The Stars have been quite a disappointment this year. What has gone wrong there?
For me, myself. I only got six starts and had two weeks in between every start or even longer. For me, I felt it was part time. You don’t play that much and you try almost too hard. And you open up instead of being calm and patient. You want it so bad.
When you know you’re in there and playing, you can take a step back and be a little more patient, which I think is huge in goaltending. Dallas is a really hardworking team, but sometimes when you have so many good players up front, eventually, teams can take advantage of it with turnovers, so I think that was a big part of the game, it was a lot of odd-man rushes here and there.
In Tampa it feels like you never got the chance you thought you were going to have. You were supposed to start, and then they made the trade for Ben Bishop and all of a sudden you’re battling with someone else for the starting job?
I think the worst thing for me was the lockout because it was such a long time where I didn’t get to play where I was supposed to play. Once I started to play a lot in Tampa, I got hurt and I was injured, and that’s when they did the trade because we needed a goalie as well. I didn’t play good enough to prove myself. But my biggest issue was that I haven’t played enough games. You can work so hard in practice, but playing games makes you get better. By playing all these games in the American Hockey League this year, I think has been great for my game. It’s a big part of me playing better right now.
There was a famous video of you in Nashville searching for a bed. Did you find one in Buffalo?
I have a short team lease here, so I have some rented furniture. It’s all good.
They didn’t document it?
No new videos … nope…
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