As far as the “Admirals Roundtable Awards” season goes? Let’s start with the simple choice. In retrospect, it’s incredible to think at season’s start that goaltending was something of an alarming mystery. The beginning three options all had certain red flags upon entry to the Milwaukee Admirals. Now that 2017-18 has come and gone our choice for Goaltender of the Year Award belongs to Anders Lindbäck. And that decision was as easy as it gets.
What was the red flag for Lindbäck ahead of this season? Well, not only his history but particularly his recent history in net. You have to remember that this was a goaltender that didn’t have an NHL or AHL contract on that table at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. He was signed to a professional try-out (PTO) contract with the Ontario Reign, made 4 starts, was released, and then had nothing else in the cards in North America and had to return back home to play professionally in Sweden with Rögle BK. His time there was decent but even Rögle BK that season was on the brink of relegation to the Allsvenskan.
It was then slightly head scratching that the 29-year old old from Gävle, Sweden could turn that season into an NHL two-way contract with the original team that drafted him. In some regards you could call it a calculated gamble. It was either going to be something that continued to not work, as showed the season prior, or was going to pay-off. And, man oh man, did it pay-off.
Right from the beginning of this season it was painfully obvious that any concerns one could have regarding Lindbäck as a starting, workhorse level, goaltender at the AHL level shouldn’t exist. He was phenomenal from the very start of the season and never stopped proving it game after game after game. He ended the season having played the most games (56) of any goaltender in the AHL this season. The next closest, Alex Nedeljkovic, was 7 games behind him in that respect. Lindbäck of course would go on to have logged the most time in net (3382:32) while also facing the most shots (1736) of any goaltender in the AHL in 2017-18. It is that last note that stands out the most.
A primary issue that faced the Admirals this season was their youthful and mistake prone defense that often left their goaltenders exposed to odd-man attacks or flat out breakaways. Yes, Lindbäck faced the most shots of any goaltender in the AHL this season but I have to also believe the amount of quality scoring chances he faced and denied were above and beyond his working colleagues between the pipes as well.
The amount of firestorms that he stood up to and managed to keep the Admirals in games was the difference between the Admirals having something to play for in the final two weeks of the regular season schedule versus there being next to no need for the Nashville Predators to seek trades around the NHL Trade Deadline with the Milwaukee Admirals in mind. This season probably should have been over and out long before it was. Lindbäck, who endured 17 games that went to or lasted beyond overtime, dragged the Admirals across the finish line that is regulation to help earn valuable points that kept the Admirals alive until the bitter end.
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