Five Alive: The Blackhawks Goalie Competition is Wide-Open

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Five Alive: The Blackhawks Goalie Competition is Wide-Open

Chicago Blackhawks

There’s an age-old saying in football that reads: “If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have no starting quarterbacks.” Well, the same can be said in hockey for goaltenders, and the Blackhawks have THREE of them.

In fact, for the first time in the nearly 95-year history of the franchise, the Blackhawks started three different goalies in the first four games of a regular season. That’s quite the feat.

Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban, and Kevin Lankinen have the thankless job of trying to fill the skates of Corey Crawford, Robin Lehner, Scott Darling, Antti Raanta, Ray Emery, and Antti Niemi. And so far, it hasn’t gone all the well.

In the entire NHL, Chicago ranks seventh in shot attempts against (196), sixth in shots on goal against (127), and eighth in high-danger shot attempts against (40), while their team high-danger save percentage (0.706) is 27th out of 30 qualified teams.

Here’s a full statistical breakdown (courtesy of Natural Stat Trick) for Chicago’s three goalies:

(All Strengths – TOI/Shots against/Save %/GAA/High-Danger Shots/High-Danger Save %)
•  Delia: 120:00 / 66 / 0.848 / 5.00 / 16 / 0.750
•  Lankinen: 62:40 / 28 / 0.821 / 4.79 / 8 / 0.625
•  Subban: 59:37 / 33 / 0.848 / 5.03 / 10 / 0.700

(Penalty Kill – Times Shorthanded/Shots Against/Save %/High-Danger Shots/High-Danger Save %)
•  Delia: 7 / 11 / 0.909 / 3 / 0.667
•  Lankinen: 4 / 5 / 0.600/ 3 / 0.333
•  Subban: 4 / 11 / 0.818 / 3 / 0.667

So indeed, it becomes quickly evident how much goaltending made up for the poor defensive play of the past two seasons.

But this isn’t to say that the season in net is already a wash.

Subban started the first game of the season and arguably had to play behind the worst effort of the four games so far (and it was the Lightning, remember). That context is important. Of course there were still one or two goals you’d want an NHL-regular to be able to save, but he wasn’t without his flashes of brilliance.

He hasn’t been back in net since game one, but was picked to back up Lankinen in game four over Delia (if you want to read into that).

Delia, by contrast, has had the most time in net so far, grabbing starts against the Lightning and Panthers in games two and three of the season. Much like Subban, Delia wasn’t perfect, but definitely played well enough to show why he’s likely to get the most starts in net for Chicago this season.

Remember, he would have been the backup to Crawford last season, had the Blackhawks not made the surprise signing of Lehner in free agency. Delia is a cerebral player and relies on his skill and positioning to help him make saves compared to Subban, who plays more to his athleticism and reaction time.

Then we saw Lankinen in game four on Tuesday night. Much earlier than I expected, Lankinen was given the net for the final game of the road trip in Florida and nearly earned the Blackhawks’ first victory of the season. He joined the dubious “five goals given up club,” but played well enough to get Chicago to overtime.

Lankinen is the wildcard of the trio. Tuesday night was his first ever taste of NHL action, but it’s not like he is without high-pressure hockey in his background, having played four seasons (2014-2018) in the Finnish professional LIIGA with HIFK prior to joining the Blackhawks organization. He also helped Team Finland win the 2019 World Championship Gold Medal two summers ago.

After Lankinen’s performance on Tuesday night, I would suspect he will get the next start for the Blackhawks. From there, it’s anyone’s guess. It will still take a couple more starts for the Blackhawks to fully get a grasp on who should be their go-to guy in net. After all, these first six or seven games are basically the preseason anyway.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.