Goon to Goalie: Ask a Pro with Nashville’s Anders Lindback
Nashville Predators rookie backup Anders Lindback was too busy being gooning it up to worry about goaltending while growing up in Swedish youth hockey.
Lindback didn’t go between the pipes full time until he was 14 years old, a late start by most modern standards, and the now six-foot-six stopper says he spent a large portion of his time playing out sitting in the penalty box.
“I was a big kid, I liked to go around and hit people,” Lindback says with an almost goofy grin. “You learn how to see a game when you play out, but I spent most of the time in the penalty box so maybe it was good to get in goal.”
News of the frequent penalty box trips brought a laugh from Lindback’s current goaltending coach, Mitch Korn, but word his latest oversized Scandinavian pupil played so long outside the crease should produce a knowing smile. That’s because the long-time NHL goalie guru told InGoal Magazine recently that he believes young players shouldn’t plat goal exclusively until they are at least 11 years old.
Lindback was three years later than that, and yet here he is at the tender age of 22 playing his first full season in the NHL.
The personable Nashville backstop took some time during a recent road trip to answer questions from InGoal subscribers about his unique path from Sweden to Nashville, and some of the adjustments he continues to make today. And be sure to also check out his thoughts on the NHL’s sizing chart, which allowed him to finally get into a properly sized pair of pads this season, and what equipment modifications are necessary to play goal in a six-foot-six frame:
~ InGoal reader Derek, from Atlanta, asks: We read so much about the teaching Finnish goalies get at a young age, but what was it like in Sweden?
“I think having a goalie coach on a regular basis I was pretty late, maybe when I was 14 or 15 years old and first came to Brynas to play junior in that (Swedish Elite League organization). But I had a guy who came once in a while when I was growing up.
Where I grew up (in Gavle) we had so few players on the team so when I wasn’t in goal I went out and I did that until I was nearly 14. So I was doing both for a while there.”
~ InGoal follow up: Mitch might say that’s a good thing, that there are benefits to not being in goal all the time.
“Yeah I think so, like whatever experience you can get in hockey I think it is a good thing. And I don’t know, when you are that age it’s good to be skating and stickhandling and for me it worked out good because you don’t have to choose so early what you want to do. I did a lot of sports too so I didn’t just go with one and stick with it, so you keep having fun by doing lots of different things and I think that’s important.
“And then once I got to Brynas it was all about hockey, and I started to work with their goaltending coach, Pekka Alcén. I had contact with him before because I went to his hockey schools when I was 12 or 13, but he was in the organization so I worked with him all the way up and he covered from the Elite League team all the way down to the junior teams.
“Then I went to another club (Almtuna Is Uppsala in Swedens’ second division) and had another goalie coach and then I went to Timra last season. So I had three different goalie coaches in my pro career and all of them are really different, really have different styles. Like my first year pro I was loaned out to a team (Almtuna Is Uppsala) in the second division and I had Mikael Andreasson and he was a big (Francois) Allaire fan and he did a lot of push and block and that kind of thing, so that was pretty much new things for me because Pekka Alcén is more kind of a read and react guy. And then I went to Timra and the coach was classic old school Finnish, a lot of catching pucks and skating a lot and trying to steer rebounds and a lot of talking game plans.
“I’ve had a lot of different voices and I think that’s been really good for my game. I’ve got a little piece of everything and I try to mix it together and I think that really helped me a lot, just to be able to get all those influences and put them together. Because you never know what is working best for your game. I know a lot of guys just do push and block from like the time they are like 14 years old, but I think it’s really good to really try out different things, because the more save selections you have, it’s all good. Even if you don’t use them all the time, or just use them once and make a save, it’s good.”
~ That ties in nicely to our next question from InGoal subscriber Carol in Nashville, who asks you to describe your game and how it has evolved under Mitch Korn this season.
“Coming over here he is all about my game and what I can do, just small adjustments. The thing I’ve worked with most is stick handling because it’s a lot different from home with the smaller rink and not being allowed in the corners. But in my game we still talk a lot about putting rebounds in the right places, and not backing up and trying to stay aggressive and work hard in practice because I’m not playing much so my practice is pretty much my games now and I’m still young so I just try to develop as much as I can in practice and we work really hard.
“I think for me my game all about if I am tracking the puck good I can make those small decisions on whether I am going to reach or block. I’m always trying to stay square and catch as much as I can with my body, but of course the more you can use your glove hand it’s good because you can control it, you can play it, or not and it’s just a great tool.”
“And I have learned a lot of good things watching Pekka too because he is unbelievable with his glove hand, he catches pucks on the ice, and I try to work on that too, instead of steering it to he corner with the pad you can catch it like a baseball catch and there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s really good at those save selections and that’s what makes him good, he always saves us like five or 10 shots each game just keeping rebounds that other guys would just kick out. You can save those rebounds and get more shots but I think he’s just doing a great job.
“I think the way the game is turning out now, it’s getting so fast, the guys are shooting so hard and fast, you can’t just be in the right place all the time. You have to make those reaching saves sometimes and you are going to be out of place and it’s going to get scrambly. It’s just so fast now and it’s going to be even more important in the future to be that reacting goalie because they are trying to make the pads smaller because the goalies are getting too good, and I can see that too, so it’s really important for you as a kid to work on trying to catch things. You might be able to have a 90 per cent save percentage when you are young just by staying square but it’s not enough to make those next steps as you get older. You see the top goalies in this league they all are really good battlers and they can reach and make amazing saves and it’s not just one game here or there, it’s every night ‘how did they do that?’ I believe in that.”
~ InGoal subscriber Debra Bundle asks: What do you do in your off ice routine?
“I’m a pretty relaxed guy, I try not to think too much. I just go to morning skate and try to stop some pucks and go home to the hotel and sometimes I have a nap and sometimes not. So I’m not really stuck in a routine or any superstitions. I just try like in the last few minutes before I get out there to really get into it and try to feel good in the warm up. It’s all about that, especially when you play a lot of games. I haven’t done that this year but when you play a lot in a row I have a hard time getting too focused too soon in the day because it can be tiring, so I try to stay relaxed.”
~ InGoal reader Hudson from Abbotsford asks: I was wondering if you have a bad game how do you get back in your grove?
“You can’t really do anything. A bad game is going to come, bad bounces and everything, but you just have to keep your head up and I try not to think about it at all, just focus hard on the next puck. I try even when whistles blow I try to relax and have that switch to put on and off. If you can do that, it will get a lot easier for you. I want to show for myself that I can bounce back and do better next time. You are going to have good days and bad days, so just work hard to have as many good days as you can.”