In what started off looking like a season that would see the Blackhawks reside in the basement of the NHL standings has now started to trend in another direction. Albeit, the Hawks are tied for most games played in the division, they are still tied for second in the Central.
I would be amiss if didn’t mention the MVP caliber season from Blackhawk veteran Patrick Kane who has continued to be atop the league regardless of the players around him. With that said, the perianal forward, who has amassed 22 points in 16 games has seemed to help rejuvenate 23 year-old Alex DeBrincat. With his next goal, the small but talented forward will have already scored half the amount of goals this year as he did last year.
Nevertheless, it’s the play of some new faces in Chicago that have really helped to spark this team of recent. Most notably, goaltender Kevin Lankinen who has been great since given a chance in mid-January. Although the intended battle was cut out to be Delia and Subban to start the season, Lankinen has come in and won the spot without question. The 25 year-old Finnish goalie is 6-2-3 on the season with a .925% SV% and a 2.49 GAA. On only 2 occasions has the goaltender seen less than 30 shots while making up to 40 saves on most nights.
41 saves by Kevin Lankinen (@KLankinen) last night 🤯#Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/dxVOXIJL0d
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 28, 2021
From the back end, a pair of first year starters in Ian Mitchell and Nicholas Beaudin have stepped in to fill the gaps brought upon by injuries and COVID. Mitchell a second round pick, and Beaudin a late first rounder have provided some unusually stability to the Blackhawks backline. Both blueliners have also been providing offensively with Beaudin scoring in back-to-back games. Although, there will be hiccups, its encouraging for Blackhawk fans to see some growth on a declining and middling blueline.
First NHL goal for Ian Mitchell (@IanMitch15) AND Nicolas Beaudin (@NicBeaudin92)!! pic.twitter.com/8Xg3d5hl2m
— NHL (@NHL) February 12, 2021
The Blackhawks have continued to thrive in scouting overseas talents. Panarin and Kubalik have been recent gems and the trend seems to have continued. While Pius Suter is not likely to reach the likes of the two aforementioned players, he has filled in quite seamlessly into a first line center role. Of course it helps to have Kane and DeBrincat on your wing, however, in his first year in the NHL the former swiss league MVP has 9 points in sixteen games and has found himself on a red hot Blackhawks powerplay (2nd unit). Speaking of Swiss, Philipp Kurashev, a smart and speedy winger/center has began to find his groove in the NHL as well. After spending some of the year in Rockford last season, he has worked his way into the Hawks lineup. Like Suter, Kurashev has found himself on a strong 2nd unit powerplay. He also has 8 points in 15 games and has looked the part so far.
The youth movement in Chicago isn’t all about points and fancy plays either. 22 year-old Branden Hagel has been a particularly fun player for Hawks fans to watch this year. A gritty player who plays with a lot of tenacity especially on the forecheck has added some juice into the bottom of the lineup. Many readers will recognize the name as Hagel got into a scrap the other night with Blue Jackets star Patrick Laine. Although he isn’t a particularly big guy, Hagel has brought an element that the Hawks haven’t had a lot of in the past.
It has been fun to watch the young players succeed in Chicago so far. It will also be interesting to see if players like Lankinen and Suter can keep on they’re impressive pace while blueliners Mitchell and Beaudin try to grow into steady NHL D-men.