The Kids Are Alright, Kevin Lankinen for the Vezina?, #PeskyHawks, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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The Kids Are Alright, Kevin Lankinen for the Vezina?, #PeskyHawks, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

We have officially hit the quarter-mark of the NHL season. Well, at least, the Chicago Blackhawks have.

Sitting at 6-4-4 through 14 games, the Blackhawks find themselves in a spot that most of us did not think they would reach at any point in the season: top-half. The Blackhawks are second in the Central Division and ninth in the league based on points (16), but rank fifth in the Division and 14th in the NHL based on points percentage (.571). Not bad for a team many thought would be down at the bottom of the league with the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. Yes, this season is already looking like it’s going to throw-off the rebuilding process for Chicago, but maybe, just maybe, that’s totally fine. Because it’s very possible that the “rebuild” the Blackhawks needed, was just giving the young players they already had a chance to play in the NHL.

•   I said it last night after the overtime winner, but Pius Suter is a BAD MAN.

•   Suter did John Klingberg and Jake Oettinger dirty last night with his overtime winner. The goal was his fifth of the season, leading all rookies. And in terms of total points, Suter ranks third among all rookies (8 pts). In short, he’s lived up to the standard that Dominik Kubalík set last season for former NLA MVP’s coming into the league.

•   That overtime winning goal was special, wasn’t it? All four players on the ice for the three-on-three overtime were rookies. Brandon Hagel continues to fly under the radar as one of the best role players for this Blackhawks squad and Suter doesn’t get the chance to make the play he did without Hagel’s effort.

•   Oh yeah, and Kevin Lankinen earned his first NHL point on the goal too! He is now the ninth goalie to record a point this season.

•   Lankinen is the early favorite for Blackhawks team MVP this season. While Patrick Kane has been his usually impressive self, Chicago is not where they are in the standings right now without the play of Lankinen. He has a 5-1-3 record with a .933 save percentage and a 2.17 GAA. He leads all rookie goaltenders in points earned (13), save percentage, and GAA.

•  Out of 27 NHL goalies who have played at least 360 minutes this season, here is where Lankinen’s number rank:

Shots Against: 300 (5th)
Save Percentage: .933 (3rd)
GAA: 2.17 (4th)
High-Danger Shots: 83 (6th)
High-Danger Save Percentage: .855 (7th)
Average Shot Distance: 33.88 feet (22nd)

•   Ten goalies have seen 290 or more shots so far this season. Lankinen leads all of them in save percentage, GAA, and High-Danger save percentage. He’s been great. If I’m putting together a short-list for Vezina Trophy Finalists this season, he’s on it.

•   The Blackhawks powerplay continues to score at a high rate this season. They have scored on seven of their last 20 powerplay opportunities and rank fourth in the NHL with a 35.6% success-rate. Chicago ranks tenth in the league in powerplay opportunities (45) so far this season, and lead the NHL with 16 powerplay goals.

•   Not to be outdone, the Blackhawks penalty-kill has been equally as effective. Killing-off 21 of their last 22 penalties against them, the Blackhawks penalty-kill unit now ranks ninth in the NHL. They rank eighth in the NHL for times being short-handed (47) this season, but rank 23rd in the league with only 3.42 penalties per 60 minutes.

•   To be honest, this team is making me feel really good about the direction of the organization. The “Yutes” have been making significant strides so far in this young season and they have been fun and entertaining. What more can you ask for out of your hockey club?

•   Now for a downer. Connor Murphy was out of last night’s game with a hip injury that the team is considering “day-to-day.” Madison Bowey and Lucas Carlsson played last night, making it 11 forwards and seven defensemen, to make up for Murphy’s spot.

•   A Happy 60th Birthday to former Blackhawks defenseman and broadcaster Steve Konroyd!

•   Ok, I want to watch that Suter goal one more time…

•   Nice.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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