The Chicago Blackhawks were pleasantly surprised when Kevin Lankinen, who finished 3rd in the Goalie competition in training camp, grabbed hold of the #1 Goaltender job and didn’t let go. He performed above expectations, but do the ‘Hawks need more in net to take the next step?
Going into the 2020-2021 season, the biggest question mark on the Blackhawks roster was between the pipes. The trio of Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban, and Kevin Lankinen were the rostered goalies who were going to get a chance at winning the job, barring a surprise trade.
Delia was the most familiar to Blackhawks fans, albeit in a very small sample size (18 games). He had mediocre statistics (around .900 save percentage, and GAA of over 3.5) in his limited audition, but he was billed as a steady presence in net, and one the Blackhawks young defensemen could count on when they made mistakes.
Subban boasted the most experience (86 NHL games), and rare athleticism for the position. A former 1st round pick, he had played 20+ games in each of his previous 4 seasons for the Vegas Golden Knights. His GAA was under 3.00 in Vegas, and his save percentage was .901 during his time there.
Lankinen was a wild card. His biggest exposure was leading Finland to a gold medal in the 2019 World Championships, where he was spectacular, with a 1.5 GAA and .942 save percentage in 8 games. But his AHL/ECHL numbers were not indicative of this level of performance.
Delia and Subban were the top 2 going into the season, but an early struggle in net gave Lankinen his opportunity, and he went on to start 37 of the 56 ‘Hawks games this past season, posting respectable numbers at a 3.01 GAA, and a .909 save percentage.
But is respectable good enough to help this team get back to contention? By all accounts, Lankinen is a hard worker who identifies weak spots in his game and improves upon them. Teams seemed to be targeting high blocker side when shooting on him, so that will be one area. The other area is workload.
Lankinen wore down as the season went on, which leads me to think that a tandem in goal might be the best option for him this upcoming season. Playing 40-45 games might be the right mix for him as he gets adjusted to the grind of an 82 game season. So who backs him up? Delia? Subban? or someone new?