Malcolm Subban stopped all 26 shots faced to backstop the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday at Nationwide Arena. Subban recorded his first shutout since Mar. 21, 2019, in a 5-0 victory as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
“It feels good,” Subban said. “I’ve never been really good at getting shutouts, so I cherish them when I get them, but I just think it’s a result of our team play. It felt like a playoff game today, and usually, those are really tight, so it felt like a really tight game overall. But we found a way to win.”
With the win, the Blackhawks move to 11-6-4 through 21 games and now sit in third place in the Discover Central Division with 26 points. The Hawks have won nine of their last 12 games and 11 of their last 17 since starting the year 0-3-1.
A Goaltender Battle Brewing In Chicago?
Kevin Lankinen has been the bell cow for the Blackhawks in goal this season (and rightfully so), but Subban has now posted four consecutive strong starts and has a 3-1-1 record. Subban has not allowed more than three goals since the season-opening 5-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and has given up two or fewer in each of his last three starts. Pretty impressive.
“Just trying to work hard and take my practices like my games,” Subban said on his current mindset. “Especially in the game-situation drills, you’ve really got to bear down there when you’re not playing that much because those are like game-situation drills for a goaltender. I just try to take all those drills seriously and it helps we’re playing a good team.”
Subban has certainly earned more starts going forward for the Blackhawks and could even be pushing Lankinen for the starting job. Following Tuesday’s game, Lankinen has given up four goals or more in four of his last seven starts and has looked uncharacteristically shaky as of late. However, those kinds of stretches are to be expected with a rookie netminder. The Blackhawks’ goaltender battle remains open as we approach the halfway point of the season.
“[Both] guys have been playing great,” Patrick Kane said. “[Lankinen] has had a great season and [Subban] has just been really good every time he’s gotten a chance to play. It’s been pretty impressive, both of them.”
Kane Records Goal No. 399
After a scoreless 45+ minutes of play, Kane jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and wristed a shot past Jackets’ goaltender Joonas Korpisalo for goal No. 399 in his career to put the Blackhawks ahead 1-0.
Mattias Janmark➡️Calvin de Haan➡️Patrick Kane🚨
— Talkin’ Hawkey (@TalkinHawkey) February 26, 2021
Since failing to earn a point on Feb. 15 against Detroit, Kane has racked up eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last three contests and is up to 31 (10 goals, 21 assists) on the year. ‘Showtime’ undoubtedly has placed himself into the Hart Trophy conversation with his efforts recently.
Soderberg Stays Hot
Forward Carl Soderberg wound up with the empty-net goal for the Blackhawks in the final minute of play to secure the victory. Soderberg now has found the back of the net in three consecutive games and has a point in five of his last six outings.
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) February 26, 2021
With the kids proving to be alright, Soderberg could be a trade candidate for the Blackhawks at the trade deadline. Although, Soderberg’s reliable two-way game has been an asset for the Hawks lately, which could result in some consideration about his future in the next few weeks from the front office.
The Blackhawks managed to take all four points from the Blue Jackets in this mini two-game series in Columbus and continue to be one of the biggest surprises of 2021. Is it too early to start thinking playoffs? Probably. But the focus around the organization is no longer solely on the rebuild. The Blackhawks have proven themselves as legitimate postseason contenders through the first 21 games of the season.
“We answered the challenge every time,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said on the last three games. “Carolina, they were better than us, but we answered the bell… We’re learning to be professional, raise our standard, raise our minimum level.”