I wrote this blog last week about how I really respect this group of guys. This team is basically Patrick Kane and 19 guys that pack a lunch pail. I can get down with that. It's not 2015 when the Hawks had a 3rd line that included Teravainen, Vermette, and Patrick Sharp, but this team doesn't quit. I am so tired of being the negative guy because that is not who I am naturally that I am going to look for chances this year to sing the Blackhawks praises from the top of the Sears Tower. Right now, after a home win, feels like that time. We will start from the top
At some point the numbers don't lie and Lankinen has been very good for about two weeks. In his last 5 starts Lankinen has stopped 153 of 160 shots. For the people out there who aren't math majors that's good for an absurd .956 sv%. That'll do. He's giving the Hawks a chance to win which more than anyone expected out of him. It is crazy that he has been so much better than the other two goalies early on and he was the 3rd guy to get a crack this year. Doesn't matter now, I guess. The Blackhawks are riding the hot hand and with a 1.37 GAA it should be Lankinen's net for a while.
I am not an expert on goalies or really anything else, but here is what I am see out of him. He is a guy who battles in net. That is obvious. Secondly, he moves very well laterally and while he's not the biggest guy in net by today's standards he does play angles well and he really reads the play well. He anticipates.
I was anticipating him being the 3rd goalie all year. Even when he put up insane numbers in the Worlds a couple years ago and won gold as the starter for Finland I took it with a grain of salt because the big ice sheet and Finland's system really helped keep the bulk of chances to the outside. It the early going of this it looks like I was wrong about that and I am thrilled. He's not going to stay this hot forever. I am not sure if he is a guy you can win big with, but he is definitely a capable NHL goalie
HUGE opportunity last night to play center for Patrick Kane and he cashed in. A goal and an assist and was dangerous for most of the night. He now has three goals on the year and last night was his first game at center which is where he has played the majority of his life. He has a good brain, very good hands and feet. Center suits him because he's good in space. He can push defenders back with the threat of his north-south speed and high end skill, but he also know how to use the entire ice sheet. He attacks east-west a lot too. Patrick Kane can play with anyone and be effective. If Kurashev can deliver a consistent effort and go to the net for cookies like he did last night that'll be an asset
He looks like an NHL player to me. We'll see how he rounds out his game going forward in this larger role but so far so good for the Swiss kid. Obvious talent. Even though he probably needs more time to develop at the AHL level in some respects, he's also the type of guy who could be more productive at the NHL level because he needs to play with guys who think the game at his level where the AHL can be a bit of a free-for-all.
The ONLY thing I want from Ian Mitchell is more ice time. He is getting about 15 mins. If they let get some special teams opportunities that should be pushed towards 17-18mins. The Blackhawks will need him to be an all-situations bonafide top 4 type of guy next year. If the Blackhawks can have more growth from their depth forwards, Dach comes back, and Toews (say a prayer) returns then the Hawks could be a playoff team. Mitchell is a key cog. You could argue that his development is more important than any player on the team right now. Normally you wouldn't want to give a young player more than he can handle early on but...he seems like the the type that can handle it. He is smart. Makes the simple play. Defends well with his feet, stick, and head. He is the real deal.
The flaws in Strome's game have been much talked about here, but he is performing well in the early going this year. More well-rounded. Growth in some areas and also playing to his own strengths. The idea of the Hawks going 19-77-17 down the middle next year is pretty exciting if he keeps improving or at least playing like this
I will have a place in my heart for guys who just work their fucking asses off and that can be said about everyone trying to carve out a bottom 6 NHL job for this team. They work. They are hard to play against. They don't have a ton of skill, but they all know how to play and what their role will be in the NHL. Some day Evan Barratt will be added to that mix and the Blackhawks will have a young generation of guys to assume that mantle from Andrew Shaw when he moves on.
I don't think this is a playoff team, but there's a few positive nuggets to latch on to. I have time for a team that works their ass off. They still give up good amount of high danger chances, but it does feel better than last year. They're doing a better job of keeping their opponents to the outside. Carolina is up next and Carolina is MUCH better than the Hawks on paper. That'll be a better test than a couple games against Detroit, Nashville, and a CBJ team going through a MAJOR change to their roster. Things could be worse and they're definitely better than I expected.