Who is Kevin Lankinen?

The Hawks rookie goaltender has been turning heads early. What do you need to know about him?

Who is Kevin Lankinen?

Good morning, frents!

Candace Parker held her introductory news with the Sky on Tuesday and gave us the information we all wanted.

Her typical Portillo's order:

  • Fish sandwich with cheese
  • Jumbo chili cheese dog, no onions
  • Large fries
  • Chocolate cake shake

I'm almost want to hit the Naperville Portillo's today and order the "Candace" so I can write about eating it.

But I also wish to live to see Thursday.

It's a tough decision.

Tuesday's results
Hurricanes 4, Hawks 3 (OT/SO)
Illinois 75, Indiana 71 (OT)

Tonight's schedule
Knicks at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)
Xavier at DePaul (4, FS1)
Michigan at N’Western, PPD

Getting to know Kevin Lankinen

We just experienced a decade of core stability with the Hawks, which means introductions were rarely needed.

But with the team in transition, it turns out the casual fan needs to do more homework about guys like Kevin Lankinen.

The rookie Hawks goaltender turned in another good performance on Tuesday night, making 38 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to the division-leading Hurricanes. Lankinen let in two early goals, then allowed nothing until a bad-bounce tally for Carolina in the third. Andrei Svechnikov scored on the final penalty shot attempt to give the Hurricanes the win, but Lankinen gave the team in front of him every chance to earn a victory.

It's still early and COVID-19 could always throw a wrench into things, but Lankinen's numbers over the first seven NHL games have been impressive and the goaltender competition already appears over. The Hawks are 3-1-0-3 in games Lankinen started and he's stopped 231 of 246 shots for a 2.09 GAA and .935 SV%. He should start appearing on Calder Trophy watch lists, though Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek was named rookie of the month on Tuesday.

So where did Lankinen come from?

The short answer is Finland, which puts him in the company of former Hawks goalies like Antti Niemi and Antti Raanta.

Like that pair, Lankinen also signed with the Hawks as an undrafted free agent, inking his first deal in May of 2018 and coming over to play with the Indy Fuel and Rockford IceHogs. He helped lead Finland to a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Championship before returning to Rockford last season and becoming an AHL All-Star.

The performance earned Lankinen a trip to the bubble in Edmonton with the Hawks last summer, where he made a point of showing up to as many games as possible to watch other goaltenders.

Lankinen came to the conclusion that his skating needed the most work and whatever effort he's put in since seems to have paid off. He looks confident maneuvering through all points of the crease as NHL traffic moves around him. His rebound control has looked the part of a goaltender that's much more experienced.

"Every single game, every single period I'm out there I just feel more relaxed," Lankinen recently told reporters.

Lankinen is 25 years old and will celebrate his next birthday in April. That timeline is just fine when it comes to NHL goalies. Corey Crawford, after all, famously took awhile to develop.

Also, when it comes to the Hawks' search for the goalie of their future, watching Lankinen step up to seize the role is a surprise that has come much earlier than expected.

Illinois beats Indiana in overtime

It took a little longer than it should have and there was some Big Ten ref hijinks afoot, but Illinois picked up another win in its push for the conference title with a 75-71 win over Indiana last night.

  • Illinois gave up 41 points in the first half, but buckled down in the last 10 minutes, allowing only two baskets in the final 11 1/2 minutes and just three points in overtime.
  • Trent Frazier scored the Illini's final 10 points in regulation and finished with a team-high 19. Goes without saying, but if the senior guard plays like that in the tournament, the Illini are going to be a tough out.
  • Last night's win in Bloomington was the first for Illinois since 2010.
  • The Illini are 12-5 overall and 8-3 in the conference, two games behind Michigan, which remains sidelined because of COVID.

Midway Minute video

Thanks to everyone who passed on a nice word about Tuesday's Super Bowl Shuffle rankings on the new website. Want more? Scott and I jumped on the YouTube to talk about the top 10 Bears in the video.

1. Andrew Chafin was apparently chafing to get back with the Cubs on a one-year major-league deal. (MLB)

2. ESPN redrafted the 2020 NFL draft and Jaylon Johnson went much quicker than the first time around. (BearsWire)

3. Two St. Rita alums are squaring off in the Super Bowl. (Tribune)

4. Why Lauri Markkanen is experiencing more success this year. (Blogabull)

5. Josh Noel on how the Chicago beer industry is coping with a shortage of cans. (Tribune)

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