Blackhawks: Kevin Lankinen May have Just Exposed his Weakness

Kevin Lankinen #32, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Lankinen #32, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Kevin Lankinen is still a solid starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks. His only visible weakness looks to be handling the puck behind the net.

Kevin Lankinen is a solid goaltender for the Blackhawks with a lot of poise and patience, able to stop multiple A+ chances against in the game vs the Columbus Blue Jackets. He did allow three power-play goals, but two of those were from one of the best snipers in the league in Patrik Laine.

With that much space and the lack of defensive coverage put on him by Connor Murphy (space) on the first, then Nikita Zadorov on the second (coverage), Laine could have scored on any goaltender or two goaltenders at that. He’s that good of a shooter.

Lankinen bounced back with a solid effort, only allowing goals from bad puck control and sloppy clears. The last two goals Columbus scored were from failed clear attempts or soft play with the puck. The team in front of him looked uninterested in the third. If the Chicago Blackhawks have lost this game, Lankinen wouldn’t be held responsible.

However, one thing stood out to me.

Throughout Lankinen’s rookie campaign (and ARGUABLY Calder Trophy winning season), there has never been a glaring weakness in his game. His positioning is great, patience is top-notch, angles and athleticism are amazing. He is definitely the starter for the Chicago Blackhawks for the future. With that said, Lankinen struggles with one thing: Handling the puck behind the net.

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In the game vs Columbus, Lankinen looked shaky with the puck, making a bad clear attempt that led to the tying goal against. This isn’t the first time he didn’t handle the puck comfortably, either. He is solid in his net, with outstanding play given his age and experience. When he leaves the net? Different story.

Thankfully, Lankinen’s goaltending fundamentals are solid. If his weakness was positioning or awareness, this Blackhawks team would be in trouble. The fact his only weakness is puck handling is a great thing, as Jimmy Waite’s job with him is to help him learn how to make decisions faster, and become more comfortable with the puck.

I suggest that in scrimmages, the Blackhawks should let Lankinen handle the puck in play as much as possible behind the net, mimicking a real game situation. With enough practice, he should be able to read the play, and make comfortable, beneficial plays with the puck.

He has to get this solved soon because the Blackhawks have an extremely hard month coming up with eleven of seventeen games against three of the top teams in the league.