By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
July 1, 2019, marked the first day of NHL free agency. NHL fans across the nation have hopes and dreams of their team signing the most attractive named talents. Unfortunately, the NHL salary cap limits numerous teams in who they can sign. Most General Managers will sign for needs rather than wants. The Bruins’ General Manager (Don Sweeney) had $12 million in cap space when free agency began, with three restricted free agents awaiting new deals: Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo.
Most fans and analysts were convinced Sweeney would have to trade a current roster player in order to sign all three. Thankfully, he was able to sign all three to team-friendly deals and had a few extra million dollars leftover. Noel Acciari had been a staple on Boston’s fourth line but received a hefty raise from the Florida Panthers in the off-season. The Bruins found themselves with a need for trustworthy bottom-six talent. With the leftover cap room, Sweeney signed a few inexpensive role players: Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm.
Par Lindholm entered the league as an undrafted free agent, signing his first NHL deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018. The 26-year-old Swedish forward played in the Swedish Elite League from 2014 through 2017, racking up 148 points and a plus 42 rating in 193 games. He has the ability to play both left-wing and center, which is a coveted trait amongst NHL players. He featured in 61 games with the Leafs, before being traded to Winnipeg at the deadline for Nicolas Petan. Lindholm only played 4 games with the Jets and became a free agent in 2019.
The contract with Boston is a low-risk, high-reward situation. They aren’t investing much into Lindholm, but if he can help in small areas it will pay dividends for the team down the road. Elliotte Friedman (Canadian Sportsnet journalist) writes a weekly article called “31 Thoughts” explaining league news and his reaction to all NHL stories. In his latest article, he gave Lindholm an unexpected but warranted praise: “There is one player in the NHL with more than 100 minutes of ice-time who has not been scored against. It is Boston’ Par Lindholm. Jinx!” Unfortunately, this accolade was broken when the Capitals defeated the Bruins on November 16, but it highlights and recognizes his contributions that go unnoticed. It’s great to watch highlight-reel goals and tic-tac-toe passing, but the ability to resist the offense from scoring is equally as important and endearing.
This type of play is no surprise to Sweeney since he had done his homework on Par before signing him. “We only had one left-shot centerman, (Lindholm is) very good on faceoffs, also kills penalties, certainly in his previous years in Sweden he had 18 goals,” I don’t believe he’ll score just one.” Seventeen games into the season, Lindholm has scored that one goal and fittingly enough, it came against his former team.
Thankfully, he wasn’t signed for his offensive game; but instead for stats that never seem to gain the recognition it deserves. His NHL career has just begun but he has yet to post a total season’s negative stat in the plus/minus column. He’s logging an average of 11:08 of ice team a year, which is normal for a bottom-six forward. If he can give the Bruins 11 shutout minutes a night, this can catapult his teammates in situations that allow them to win the game.
Face-offs are also incredibly important to a team’s success. If a team cannot win the necessary face-offs, it could be the difference between a win or a loss. An example of a key situation is when a team (say the Capitals for argument sake) trail the Bruins and pull the goalie for an extra attacker. The strategy in these situations for a head coach starts with the grouping he wants to deploy. Normally, a coach will deploy a group that tends to kill penalties because the Capitals extra attacker is a man-advantage situation. The head coach also ensures his lineup consists of more than one center-man in case his number one center is thrown out of the face-off dot for a violation.
Patrice Bergeron is, unfortunately, a repeat offender of these violations (deservedly so or not), so Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will want a player like David Krejci or Par Lindholm on the ice for his replacement for the key defensive zone draw. If Bergeron, Krejci, or Lindholm cannot win the defensive zone face-off, the Capitals could get a quality scoring opportunity. Successful teams do the little things right and these successful plays often come from under-the-radar players. Lindholm is a career 49.3% face-off winner, which is a necessary and trait for a bottom-six forward especially on special teams. The best players generally have a face-off percentage of 52% for the year.
Lindholm will certainly not be winning any awards in the near future or be featured on the NHL Network’s Top 5 Goals of the Week. But, he will be doing all of the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet. He was able to work third line duties while the Bruins recover from the injury bug, so there’s an opportunity for him to build on other areas in his game. He has returned to fourth-line duties. Regardless of the line, he plays on, Lindholm has won face-offs, denied scoring opportunities, and kills penalties; which is exactly the reason Sweeney called him on July 1.