The youth movement is in full force for the Blackhawks and two of their top rookies shined in Wednesday's 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. And they did so on national television.
Kevin Lankinen, who's been a breakout star this season, stopped all 29 shots he faced for his first career NHL shutout and improved to 7-2-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in 12 starts. He also moved into first in goals saved above average (9.97) among all goaltenders, according to Natural Stat Trick.
"It feels awesome," Lankinen said. "It’s just great. It's one of those nights that you always dream about growing up. First you want to get your first game, you want to get your first win then you want to get your first shutout. It's nice to get that under the belt, but at the same time, I'm just hungry for more."
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Heck, Lankinen even found a way to get on the scoresheet. He recorded his second assist of the season and is only one of two goaltenders with more than one point; Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars is the other with two assists.
"I think I had the easiest assist of my career with that," a smiling Lankinen said.
On the offensive side of things, Philipp Kurashev scored a jaw-dropping goal that wowed the hockey world and it turned out to be the game-winner after he sliced through three Red Wings then beat Jonathan Bernier five-hole.
"I made the move and saw I had some space for a breakaway, so I tried to do the move and I scored, so that was good," Kurashev said. "I like to do some moves sometimes to try it out. It was nice that it worked for once."
Said head coach Jeremy Colliton: "Should probably be on a few highlight shows tonight."
Kurashev now ranks second among rookies with five goals, trailing only his teammate Pius Suter (six) for the lead, and is tied for third in points with nine. He's quickly making a name for himself at the NHL level.
"He’s such a skilled player," Lankinen said. "You see that in practice pretty much every day. He can dangle guys, he can shoot the puck, he can make plays. I've known him a couple of years now, even last year in Rockford, he showed his skill. It's just huge to see a young guy that can jump into the National Hockey League and do those things in the best league in the world, it's really impressive. He’s a really valuable player for us now."
The Blackhawks are seemingly getting significant contributions from their rookies every night, and it's a big reason why they've picked up at least one point in 13 of their last 15 games and wins in six of their last seven.
"We need those contributions," Colliton said. "We've got young guys all over our lineup, so if they’re not going we’re going to have a tough time. But it’s confidence-building for those guys to feel like they're really contributing and helping us win. It builds belief in the group as well that, any given night, there's different guys who can chip in. So, very good. They keep getting better."