The Blackhawks went into the 2020-21 season with three unproven goaltenders in Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban. They were hoping one of them would step up and secure the No. 1 job after the team parted ways with two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford in the offseason.
Lankinen has been that guy so far, but Subban is giving the Blackhawks something to think about, too. He stopped all 26 shots he faced in Thursday's 2-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and improved to 3-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average and .952 save percentage over his last four starts.
"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."
Perhaps the most impressive part is the fact Subban has been able to perform at a high level despite not stringing together consecutive starts like Lankinen. Subban has gone 13, 12, 8 and 10 days between each start, respectively, and yet continues to stay sharp.
"Just trying to work hard and take my practices like my games," Subban said of his 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 game."
Even head coach Jeremy Colliton couldn't have predicted the goaltending competition going like this. He has two legitimate netminders who deserve the net right now.
"I mean, we've got to say we’re pleasantly surprised," Colliton said. "They’ve both been really good. They give us a chance to win every night and that’s what you hope for when you give young guys opportunity. You hope they're going to seize it and take advantage of it and that's what they're doing."
The Blackhawks aren't going to make any declarations about who the clear-cut No. 1 starter is, but it's clear the coaching staff feels comfortable with either of the two between the pipes. And so do their teammates.
"Those 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. I’m sure they’re trying to fight for their chances to get in the net and show what they can do.
"They work so hard in practice and maybe that’s paying off. But it’s fun to shoot on them in practice, too, because they want to stop every shot and they're always trying to get better, so kudos to both of them for stepping in and doing a great job for us so far this year."