The Chicago Blackhawks had a number of different goaltenders start between the pipes for them this year. However, one guy clearly stood out as the best.
Kevin Lankinen began this season in what seemed like a sticky situation. The ‘Hawks had a tandem of Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia, who both looked primed to compete for the starting gig. This left Lankinen, who came into the year with exactly zero minutes of NHL ice time, seeming like the odd man out.
Despite the odds appearing to be against him, though, Lankinen proved that he was clearly the best goaltender of the trio. The 26-year-old Finn now looks primed to be the team’s starter for at least the immediate future. This doesn’t mean he won’t have competition, though. Delia was outstanding in the last few games of the season, and Subban also had two shutouts.
While this season was not exactly the best in Blackhawks’ history, it could’ve been worse. The team was without their star goaltender, Corey Crawford, for the first time in a decade, and none of the options for his replacement had much NHL experience. While it could be argued that the ‘Hawks might’ve had a better year if Crow was still around, Kevin Lankinen kept Chicago in many games that they definitely should’ve lost.
Lankinen also put up some solid numbers for a first-year NHL goaltender. Due to COVID-19 shortening the season, he only played in 37 games. Now, his win-loss ratio wasn’t great, at 17-14. However, many of these losses were not at all his fault, and looking towards his other statistics shows how well he played.
He ended the year with a save percentage of .909, right on par (and even slightly above) the league average of .908. His goal-against-average was 3.01, which won’t exactly give him bragging rights. However, it is important to remember how bad the team’s defense was this year, allowing the seventh-most goals against in the league. When the opponent lights the lamp that much, it’s hard to blame Lankinen every single time the puck goes into the net.
Compare these stats to the other Blackhawks’ goalies this year. Subban recorded a save percentage of only .900 and a goals-against-average of 3.20. Delia, despite his stellar play at the end of the season, put up a .902 save percentage and a painful goals-against-average of 3.59. I’m not saying either of these guys are bad goalies, and they both played fewer games this year than Lankinen.
However, when it comes down to it, Lankinen proved in a very short timeframe that he is able to hold his own in an NHL net. It’s hard to say how he will play next year during a full 82-game campaign. The Blackhawks are extremely lucky, though, that #32 was able to step up to the plate in such a big way, and there is no doubt that he was the team’s shining star in the crease this season.