Finding Lankinen’s Middle Ground, DeBrincat Is Just Fine, Kane Flourishing, Rookie Goals, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Last night’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets was a roller coaster of emotions. You go from jubilation to frustration to relief to shock and sadness. All in one hockey game.

It was great and terrible at the same time. Even in the loss, the Blackhawks look like a real team that can compete in real hockey games. This isn’t the kind of season we were expecting so far and in a shortened season, expectations and judgements need to be shortened as well. In the short-term, this Blackhawks team is entertaining. Maybe they won’t be playoff contenders, but at least they are not miserable.

The Blackhawks can still score, even without Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach. And the Blackhawks still can get great goaltending performances/stick in tight games, even without Corey Crawford. I think we were wrong about them.

•   I feel like I’m getting to the point of sugar-coating a loss too much. I’m not going to lie to you, the Blackhawks scored five goals last night and should have won that game. Kevin Lankinen, who has been such a breakout star for Chicago looked pedestrian for the first time since his first start of the season. I don’t think that is the real Kevin Lankinen, and I don’t think the “.933 save percentage and 2.17 GAA” version of him is the real Kevin Lankinen either. It’s probably safe to assume in the small sample size he has in the NHL, he’s somewhere in the middle of those performances.

•   Lankinen is 10 starts into his NHL career. There are more stinkers ahead, it’s inevitable. But I believe that he has what it takes to be a competent starter in the NHL. At 25-years-old, I’m not sure he’s the long-term starter for the Blackhawks for the next decade, or anything like that. But for the time being, he’s been good enough.

•   We are seeing the real Alex DeBrincat again. With 15 points in 11 games this season, DeBrincat is tied with Patrick Kane for the team-lead in goals (7 in 11 games played). He is second on the team behind Kane for even-strength points this season (9) and is also tied for the team lead in powerplay goals (3) with Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalík.

•   I’m not saying he’s going to score 40 goals again this season. But would I be surprised if he found himself back in the upper-20s and maybe into the 30s by the end of the year? No sir. And that’s not all. DeBrincat is also distributing the puck at a high-level again, thanks in large part to his chemistry with Patrick Kane. Long-story short: I think DeBrincat is going to be just fine. We can all chill out.

•   Speaking of Patrick Kane, he’s still a beast, notching three points last night, including a nasty snipe goal and a sick backhand assist on DeBrincat’s goal. I’m getting a small feeling that without Toews around the team, Kane is stepping into the spotlight on his own for the Blackhawks and he is relishing being THE guy.

•   Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin scored their first NHL goals just 56 seconds apart last night. That was such a cool moment, one I’ll remember as a fan when looking back at this 2021 season.

•   You love to see the confidence growing in these rookies for the Blackhawks. Getting them more ice and seeing their development progress this season has been truly a treat. They have stepped up in times of injury and COVID and performed well above expectations. It has really been fun to watch.

•   There lies a future issue: what happens to this lineup when the likes of Connor Murphy, Adam Boqvist, Lucas Wallmark, and Ryan Carpenter return to the roster? Do you sit the rookies who are playing so well in favor of veterans returning? Do you sit the vets because they’ve lost their spots for reasons outside of their control? I’m not sure what the move is, and I’m not paid to make those decisions. But if I were a coach, I think you have to ride with what got to where you are, especially if the goal this season was the development of the young players. They are developing AND taking you further than you expected to go.

•   In other Blackhawks news and notes, Stan Bowman will be part of Team USA’s World Championships staff:

•   In Chicago-adjacent news, I hear J.J. Watt is a free agent, eh?

•   So J.J., I hear you like the Blackhawks? They’re in Chicago. I hear you like Portillo’s? That’s in Chicago, too.

•   Your wife, Kealia, plays in Chicago too. So that’s cool. Just saying, you know, Chicago’s kinda cool.

•   I’ve done all I can, Bears fans.

•   What’s the verdict on these golden helmets by the Vegas Golden Knights? I kind of hate them? But also, it’s nice to see something new in the NHL.

•   Finally, Brian Burke may have made up my new favorite hockey term…

•   This is now strictly a “long pants hockey” site.

written by

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

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