The Blackhawks are continuing to impress and are starting to take the NHL by storm.
Winners of three straight games for the second stretch over the last seven outings, Chicago has climbed to a points-share of the Central Division lead and trails only the Toronto Maple Leafs in points in the overall NHL standings. Granted, with a handful more games played than their opponents, it's not a fully-representative picture, but what is is that the Blackhawks have the fourth-best points percentage (.750) in the NHL dating back to their first win on Jan. 22.
Not bad for a team largely considered a draft lottery contender heading into the season.
"It's fun to be around. We've got a really good group of guys," said Kevin Lankinen, fresh off his first NHL shutout on Wednesday. "We've found our groove. We've found our identity. We know how we're supposed to play and if we play like that every single night we at least give ourselves a good chance to win. Like Jeremy has said, we're on the path to becoming a great team. We still have to improve on a lot of things but we're on the right path, so it's exciting."
"It builds belief in the group," head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the growing success up and down the lineup. "On any given night, there's different guys who can chip in. They just keep getting better."
Video: Lankinen, Kurashev lift Blackhawks to 2-0 victory
Here are three takeaways from the 2-0 shutout victory in Detroit:
After four games where Lankinen came oh so close to his first NHL shutout allowing just a single goal against, the rookie notched his first clean sheet on Wednesday night with 29 saves. He stood the tallest in the third period as Detroit made a push for the equalizer in a 1-0 game, stopping all 11 chances in the final frame until Alex DeBrincat provided breathing room with an empty-net insurance goal with 58 seconds to play.
"It just feels great," Lankinen said after the win. "It's one of those nights that you always dream about growing up. First you want to get your first game, your first win, and then you want to get that first shutout. It's nice to get that under the belt, but at the same time, just hungry for more and looking forward for even more games."
"It's definitely a milestone for him," Colliton said. "It wasn't a 4-0 game. Those shutouts where you need every last save, those are pressure-packed and I'm sure he's going to remember it for awhile."
Lankinen has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his 12 starts. He shares fourth in the NHL with a .931 save percentage and is sixth with 2.29 goals-against average (min. 7 appearances).
Video: Lankinen on first career shutout
THE INCREDIBLE KURASHEV
Philipp Kurashev opened the scoring in style on Wednesday night just past the game's midpoint with an incredible individual effort on the power play.
Lankinen probably summed it up best: "That was unbelievable."
"Probably be on a few highlight shows here tonight," Colliton added. "It's a combination of speed and skill. If he doesn't have the speed, he probably can't make that play. Pretty high-end play."
Taking a pass from Duncan Keith at the blue line, Kurashev split a trio of Red Wings defenseman off the rush at the blue line and tucked a shot five-hole on a sliding Jonathan Bernier in net for a goal that, as Colliton said, will be played many times over in the next few days.
Video: CHI@DET: Kurashev goes five-hole on Bernier for PPG
"I don't know," Kurashev said when asked about his split-second decision making on the play. "Just thought I'd try to get around the D and it worked. I'm happy about that."
"He's such a skilled player," Lankinen added. "You see that in practice pretty much every every day. He can dangle guys, he can shoot the puck, he can make plays. I've known him for a couple 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 and I think he's on the right path too. He's scored a lot of goals, he does the right things for the team, so he's a really, really valuable player for us right now."
Even Patrick Kane, known for a highlight-reel goal or two himself, has been impressed with the rookie, who now has five tallies on the year and nine points total.
"I've enjoyed watching a guy like Kurashev progress," he timely said ahead of Wednesday's game. "He's obviously very skilled, but he's playing some good hockey for us on both ends."
Video: Kurashev on highlight-reel goal
BACK IN ACTION
Following 23- and 18-day absences, respectively, due to COVID-19, Adam Boqvist and Ryan Carpenter returned to the lineup on Wednesday night in Detroit. It was Boqvist's first game since Jan. 24 against the Red Wings at the United Center and Carpenter's first since a few nights later against Columbus on Jan. 29.
"I think they were both really good," Colliton said after the win.
Boqvist played 12:50 of ice time with two shots on goal in the win, while Carpenter skated 14:50, including 2:21 of penalty kill time.
"I thought Carpenter was obviously a big part of our penalty kill, but skated well and good on the forecheck and made some real clean, hard plays to get out of D zone and get a forecheck going.
"I thought Boqvist was excellent. Made a lot of plays, very comfortable on the offensive blue line. He looked like he was playing with a lot of confidence and he's unlucky, I think, not to produce something. He made a lot of plays. Defensively, I thought he was strong, too. Good job getting stops in D zone and being clean getting us out."
Video: Colliton on win over Detroit, Lankinen