Kevin Lankinen was the catalyst of the Blackhawks’ resurgent play, and their place in the league standings.
The Blackhawks looked to be a lock to finish in the top five, not in the league, but in the draft lottery. A chance for yet another potential franchise-changing prospect in the 2021 NHL draft. They had a 5.00 goals-against average, had passive, sloppy play, didn’t generate any even-strength offense, and their goaltending was the worst in the league. Without a potential ace up their sleeve, the season was looking dim.
Then, Jeremy Colliton decided to give Kevin “Lank the Tank” Lankinen the start vs the Florida Panthers on January 19th. He proved to be a solid option for the Blackhawks moving forward and the coaches went to the drawing board, finding what their guys were good at and could provide in-game on a consistent basis. They found strategies that worked for them, all possible because of the brick wall they could depend on back in net.
Yes, Kevin Lankinen did expose his only weakness vs Carolina the other night. But it is very promising for Blackhawks fans that it isn’t worrisome. That one blemish doesn’t mean anything, he’s still a stud IN the net, and that’s what a goaltender needs to be.
The former issues about the ‘Hawks goaltending was that neither Subban or Delia were sound in the net, making questionable choices, had bad positioning, and were unable to track the puck. Although Subban has been good as of late. The Blackhawks had to focus on playing defense, so they played passive for the first four games.
Following Lankinen’s outing, and his display that he could more than hold himself in the net regardless of whatever savable shot was sent at him (Laine’s two goals were not savable, even Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur probably couldn’t save those shots) and the Blackhawks were let loose.
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The Blackhawks went on a tear, currently riding a 7-2-1 record in the last ten games, and a 10-6-4 record overall. They were 0-3-1 before Lank became the starter, and they are now 10-3-3 since he was named the starter.
Lankinen could also not only win the Calder Memorial Trophy, but also the Vezina Trophy for the league’s top goalie. The William M. Jennings Trophy is awarded to the goalie, or goaltending tandem, that allowed the fewest goals against. Lank won’t win that one, but the Vezina is awarded to the goaltender who “is chosen as the best to play that position for the season”.
IF the Blackhawks make the playoffs this year, they will have a ton of hardware coming their way with Patrick Kane in the talks as the NHL’s MVP, Jeremy Colliton earning the Jack Adams Award for leading the young team to the playoffs, and multiple prospects who could win the Calder.
To conclude, Kevin Lankinen is the catalyst of the Blackhawks’ resurgence, opening the team up to play their track meet style of hockey. Patrick Kane is definitely in the talks as the league’s MVP, Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter are arguably the other two rookies to be considered for the Calder.
Jeremy Colliton could be awarded the Jack Adams Award for his work with the Blackhawks’ rookies, leading a young team with multiple first-year rookies to become a black horse Stanley Cup contender. But none of this would be possible without an elite goalie, and Lank the Tank is that netmidner the Blackhawks needed.