Ryan vs. Charlie Lindgren in Rangers-Capitals series is a source of pride, stress for family

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Ryan vs. Charlie Lindgren in Rangers-Capitals series is a source of pride, stress for family

NEW YORK — The text was typical Ryan Lindgren: short and to the point, with an undercurrent of intensity.

After Washington goalie Charlie Lindgren, Ryan’s older brother, stopped 27 of 28 shots Tuesday night against the Flyers, securing his third win in four days and clinching an unlikely playoff berth for the Capitals, Ryan sent him a text.

“Hey, congrats,” he wrote. “Talk to you after the first round.”

The two are all of a sudden pitted against each other, with the wild-card Capitals taking on Ryan’s top-seeded Rangers. Charlie replied with a simple, “Sounds good.”

“That’s about all the talking we’ll do,” said Charlie, whose .911 save percentage is one of the main reasons Washington made the playoffs. “We’re wired the same that way. We’re very much mission-focused.”

Ryan and Charlie will become the 36th set of brothers to play against each other in the playoffs when the series starts on Sunday, per NHL Stats. They are only the fourth pair in which one is a goalie and the other a skater. That hasn’t happened since 1984, when Jean-Francois and Bob Sauve went head-to-head in two games. Phil Esposito had 12 goals and 19 points against Tony and was the only member of that group to record at least one point against his sibling.

Most playoff games between brothers

Brother 1 Brother 2 GP

Dale Hunter, Que

Mark Hunter, Mon

17

Phil Esposito, Bos

Tony Esposito, Chi and Mon

16

Joe Mullen, Cal and Pit

Brian Mullen, NYI and Win

15

Brent Sutter, Chi

Rich Sutter, Stl and Tor

14

Brent Sutter, Chi and NYI

Ron Sutter, Phi and StL

14

Jordan Staal, Car and Pit

Marc Staal, Fla and NYR

12

Rob Niedermayer, Ana and Fla

Scott Niedermayer, NJ

10

Russ Courtnall, Dal and LA

Geoff Courtnall, StL and Van

9

The brotherly matchup is both exciting and a little torturous for their family members. One will advance closer to his dream of winning a Stanley Cup, and the other’s season will come to an abrupt end.

“All I think I can do is hope for low scoring,” said Andrew Lindgren, their middle brother and a firefighter for Minneapolis Fire Station 8. “It’s just going to be a lot of nerves.”

The Lindgren parents will feel that stress, too. It’s a different feel from 2022, when Ryan made the Eastern Conference finals with the Rangers and Charlie dressed for the Blues in the playoffs, then helped the Springfield Thunderbirds to the Calder Cup final.

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“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” said Jennifer, the brothers’ mom and a real estate agent in the Twin Cities. “I’m just so incredibly proud of both of them.”

“It’s going to be stressful,” added Bob, their dad and a UPS driver. “But we’re very fortunate and lucky to be parents being able to watch and experience their boys playing at the highest level.”

For Andrew, a former college goalie at St. John’s in Collegeville, Minn., it would have been nice for both his brothers to make the playoffs without facing off in the first round. But he believes this will be a cool experience for the two of them. Plus, if they had been on opposite sides of the bracket and both advanced, “they would have had to meet up at some point.”

Andrew watched the Capitals-Flyers game, the last of Washington’s regular season, from his house in Minnesota. For superstitious reasons, he tried to avoid thoughts of the potential matchup. Washington needed a win to get in, and Andrew didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“I don’t like to jinx anything, so I just tried to put it out of my mind and hoped for the best,” he said. “Right when that game ended and we figured out it was going to be Caps-Rangers, I was talking to my dad right away about getting out there.”

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So the family worked out a plan after Washington clinched. Andrew and his dad, Bob, will go to the first two games in New York. Jennifer will go to games 3 and 4 in Washington with her 85-year-old dad, Ed Fleetham, and Charlie’s wife, Mikkayla.

Andrew has already thought about what he will wear to the games, but don’t expect a split jersey like the one Donna Kelce wore when her sons Jason and Travis faced off in the Super Bowl. The middle brother would likely don a jersey of one of his brothers if they weren’t playing each other, but for now he’s planning to go with a neutral outfit with no gear of either team.

Like Andrew and Charlie, Bob Lindgren is a former standout high school goalie, and he coached all three of his boys at the bantam level. Watching Charlie play goalie can be stressful for both him and Andrew, who have firsthand experience of how it feels to struggle in net. Bob sometimes mimics saves Charlie makes as the game goes on.

“He’s pretty squirmy in the stands,” Charlie said.

Added Bob, who played collegiately at Michigan: “I’m definitely not cool, calm and collected.”

Charlie entered this season with 60 NHL games of experience over eight years in the Montreal, St. Louis and Washington organizations. Thirty-one of those games came last season.

This season, the 30-year-old nearly matched his career total of games, playing in 48 and going 25-16-7. He supplanted Darcy Kuemper as the team’s starter, and coach Spencer Carbery rode him heavily toward the end of the season. Lindgren was up for the task, going 12-6-2 in his last 20 games of the regular season and posting a .919 save percentage.

“Last game against Philly, I don’t think my wife and I spoke on the couch,” Bob said. “We just sat and watched. It’s just the way it’s been because those games, the last few have been basically ‘do or die’ for them.”

Sunday will be Charlie’s first playoff appearance, though he dressed for postseason games with the Blues in 2022.

Ryan, meanwhile, is not new to this stage. The hard-nosed defenseman, who is normally paired with superstar Adam Fox, already has 31 playoff games under his belt. His parents watch anxiously every night, hoping he doesn’t get hurt due to the type of hard-hitting, unrelenting shot-blocking style he plays. There have been plenty of scares this season: he wore a face shield at one point and missed only four games after suffering a scary-looking leg injury. Coach Peter Laviolette refers to him as a warrior.


Andrew, Charlie and Ryan Lindgren. (Courtesy of the Lindgren family)

“Who do I want to win?” Bob said. “I try to stay neutral, but I tell Ryan, ‘How can I want anybody to score on your brother?’”

Like Andrew, Bob just wants low-scoring games.

“But somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose, and low scoring is what I want.”

The two played three games against each other this regular season, including a home and away back-to-back in January. Ryan ate dinner at Charlie’s house the night before the first game but “was in no mood to talk to him” after losing the next day. In the second leg of the back-to-back, which the Rangers won, Charlie slid a stick at Ryan’s skates during a stoppage in the third period.

“Had to eyeball him after that,” Ryan said postgame.

Laviolette is in his first year coaching the Rangers. The previous three seasons, he was with the Capitals and overlapped with Lindgren for a season. He called both brothers great people with good work ethics.

“You can just tell by working with them that their compete level is really high,” he said.

Andrew remembers playing hours of street hockey in the driveway with his two brothers. Hockey has always been at the forefront of their lives, he said. And now his brothers will be at the forefront of the hockey world.

Said Andrew: “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”

(Top photos of Ryan Lindgren and Charlie Lindgren: Ashley Potts and Joe Sargent / Getty Images)