The return of Chicago’s longtime rival Detroit Red Wings to the Central Division is working out pretty well for the Blackhawks so far this year. With last night’s 2-0 victory, the Hawks have now won all four contests between both clubs, with four more games still to be played.
That said, the Hawks’ last two victories certainly didn’t come easy. The Blackhawks had to rally in overtime after relinquishing a two-goal lead the game before and were outplayed by Detroit for long stretches in both games.
Detroit had Chicago on their heels early last night, forcing the latter to take at least four icings in the first few minutes of the game. Rookie Adam Boqvist had a glorious scoring chance early in the first, as did Patrick Kane later in the frame, only to be stoned by Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier.
After a scoreless first period, rookie Philipp Kurashev would finally solve Bernier with a highlight-reel goal midway through the second, splitting two Red Wing defenders before sliding the puck through Bernier’s five-hole for the 1-0 lead. The tally marked Kurashev’s first game-winning goal of his career and Chicago’s league-best 18th power-play goal of the season.
U.S.S. Kurashev leaves quite a wake!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2021
Kevin Lankinen would take it from there. The rookie goaltender continued his stellar season debut, stopping all 29 shots and earning his first NHL shutout. In the 12 games Lankinen has played, he holds an impressive .931 save percentage and a 7-2-3 record. He also has the 4th most saves in the league (375) and has faced the 5th most shots (403).
Alex Debrincat would add an empty-net goal late to seal the victory for the Blackhawks.
“It feels awesome,” said Lankinen. “It’s just great. It’s one of those nights that you always dream about growing up. First you want to get your first game, you want to get your first win then you want to get your first shutout. It’s nice to get that under the belt, but at the same time, I’m just hungry for more.”
Lankinen not only earned the shut out, but also assisted on the game-winning goal by Kurashev. “I think I had the easiest assist of my career with that,” Lankinen said.
The win was Chicago’s third consecutive victory and puts them in a two-way tie with the Florida Panthers for 1st in the Central Division. For a team that looked dead in the water three games into the season, the Blackhawks have finally found their stride — and much of their success stems directly from their rookies.
“I think we found our groove,” said Lankinen. “We’ve found our identity. We know how we’re supposed to play and if we play like that every single night, we at least give ourselves a good chance to win.”
The Blackhawks will continue their six-game road trip with back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes beginning Friday. The Hawks will then wrap up their trip with a two-game series the Columbus Blue Jackets.