Lankinen Shines in Blackhawks’ 3-1 Win over Blue Jackets

It wasn’t too long ago that the Blackhawks had a serious problem in net. With the departure of longtime stalwart Corey Crawford and with three incredibly green goaltenders in Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Malcolm Subban, the starting goalie position was anyone’s for the taking.

At the ten-game mark of this 56-game season, the Hawks may finally have their answer.

Kevin Lankinen continued to solidify his status as the starter, making 32 saves and helping the Blackhawks end a three-game losing streak. In the six games he’s played, the 25-year-old rookie holds a .937 save percentage, which is currently tied for 5th best in the league.

As with Lankinen, the Hawks would have help from two other rookies who are also having solid season debuts in Phillip Kurashev and Pius Suter.

Kurashev would open the scoring midway through the first period on a beautiful 3-on-2 transition with Mattias Janmark and Patrick Kane. Janmark started the play just inside the Hawks’ blueline, with both Kane and Kurashev crashing the net. Instead of one-timing Janmark’s pass, Kane quickly deflected the puck off Kurashev’s perfectly-placed stick for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Kurashev’s third of the season.

Columbus’ Boone Jenner would tie the game 1-1 late in the period after catching defenseman Calvin de Haan flat-footed at the Hawks’ blueline. Jenner chipped the puck past de Haan and cashed the rebound from Jack Raslovic’s shot to end the frame.

After a scoreless second period, Suter would regain the Hawks’ lead after goalie Elvis Merzlikins left his net to play the puck along the backboards. Suter intercepted Merzlikins’ weak backhand-pass, and as the goaltender rushed to get back to his net, Suter deflected the puck off Merzlikins’ skate. The goal was Suter’s fourth of the season.

Patrick Kane would also capitalize on a Merzlikins turnover six minutes later. As Merzlikins once again attempted to play the puck on the backboards, Kurashev was able to steal the puck with a strong forecheck. Kurashev then found a wide-open Kane, who flung the puck from a sharp angle into the wide-open net.

In their first game on the same line, Kane and Kurashev each finished with one goal and one assist; with Kurashev returning the favor for his easy first-period goal with an easy goal for Kane late in the game. Pius Suter had been centering Kane’s line, but Coach Jeremy Colliton was forced to readjust the lines due to the Blackhawks’ recent string of Covid-19 absences.

Ryan Carpenter and Nicolas Beaudin were the latest Blackhawks added to the Covid-19 protocol list, joining Adam Boqvist, Alex Debrincat, and Lucas Wallmark. The Blackhawks also had to cancel their scheduled practice on Saturday.

On a night where rookies loomed large, Blackhawk Reese Johnson was no exception. Although he failed to mark the scoresheet, the young forward was very noticeable all game, particularly on the forecheck and in the hit department, registering seven hits. The Hawks will look to improve on their 3-4-3 record on Tuesday, when they open their two-game home series against the 5-1-0 Carolina Hurricanes.

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