Exploring Blackhawks goaltending situation beyond Corey Crawford

Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

A few days ago, goaltending was way, way down on the list of concerns for the Blackhawks heading into their upcoming qualifier series against the Oilers.

Monday’s news sure took care of that.

On the opening day of training camp, goaltender Corey Crawford was ruled “unfit to play,” quickly changing one of the Blackhawks perceived strengths into, perhaps, its biggest question mark. With new regulations in place prohibiting teams from releasing medical information on players, coach Jeremy Colliton had little to say about Crawford’s long-term prognosis. But multiple reporters on the media call developed the sense Crawford may not be a roster option come August.

Crawford and former teammate Robin Lehner handled the Chicago net for all but 70 seconds of the 2019-20 regular season. Malcolm Subban, who was acquired in the Lehner trade, played 1:10 on March 3 against the Ducks while Crawford received medical attention.

The Blackhawks long-term goaltending situation has been a mystery for a year, considering they have no NHL-level goalie under contract for next season. Now, the short-term future is even murkier, with the Blackhawks only proven option potentially unavailable. Here are the in-house options for replacing Crawford:

Malcolm Subban

At 26 years old, Subban could have plenty of hockey remaining in his career. Before coming to Chicago, Subban spent three seasons as the backup in Vegas and his numbers have steadily declined during the last three seasons:

‘17-18: .910 save percentage, 2.68 goals-against average, -1.11 goals saved above average
‘18-19: .902 SV%, 2.93 GAA, -4.84 GSAA
‘19-20: .890 SV%, 3.10 GAA, -10.63 GSAA

One positive trend for Subban is he seems to play better when he sees consistent action, as Shepard Price detailed in late February. Should he become Chicago’s No. 1 goaltender, he could play five games in his first week on the job, which may work in Subban’s favor. But doubts are going to revolve around Subban until he proves himself at the NHL level.

Collin Delia

Delia spent the entire ‘19-20 regular season in the AHL after making NHL appearances in the prior two seasons. At one point, he looked like the heir apparent to Crawford in net and is under contract through the ‘21-22 season. After some AHL struggles, though, Delia ended the season at the top of Rockford’s goalie trio with a 16-13-1 record, 2.66 GAA and .912 SV%. A few weeks before hockey was halted in early March, Delia sounded pleased with how he’d handled an up-and-down year of hockey.

Delia, also 26, had impressive outings during the ‘18-19 season, including a 46-save win over the Wild just after Christmas. Like Subban, though, Delia remains unproven as a No. 1 NHL goalie. Still, if the race for Crawford’s vacated spot atop the goaltending depth chart were being handicapped, Delia would likely be right behind Subban, if not at even odds.

Kevin Lankinen

Lankinen’s appearance during Phase 2 voluntary workouts were a welcome sign, considering he was expected to miss four-to-five months following surgery on his left shoulder in the first week of March. Splitting AHL net time with Delia, Lankinen posted an 8-10-2 record with a 3.03 GAA and .909 SV% in 21 games, including a career-high 55-save performance Dec. 10 to set Rockford’s AHL club record for most saves in a single game.

The highlight of Lankinen’s career thus far remains his time in net with Finland during the 2019 World Championship, where he posted a 7-1 record with a 1.50 GAA and .942 SV% en route to the gold medal. The 25-year-old is signed through 2022 but is yet to make his NHL debut.

Matt Tomkins

Tomkins, a 2012 seventh-round pick (199th overall) by the Blackhawks, spent the last two seasons bouncing between the IceHogs and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Ohio State graduate remained in the AHL for the entire ‘19-20 regular season as part of a three-man rotation with Delia and Lankinen. Tomkins, also 26, had a 5-7-1 record, 3.12 GAA and .896 SV%, playing well enough to earn a two-year NHL contract through 2021.

Tomkins is also yet to make his NHL debut and remains a significant longshot to change that factor in August.

Comments

Reach for the brass ring, boys.

Kevin's looking pretty shape, so far.

You know, I wonder if starting Lankinen if Crow can't go might be an interesting option.

Subban is the most experienced in the NHL and Delia held his own last season, but Lankinen has a history of doing well in higher profile tournaments. Granted, he also played behind some much much much better defensive teams lol.

They were a little better at the end of the season but not enough to be outside the bottom 5 in these stats, really. If anyone but Crawford starts, it’ll be a bit like being thrown in the deep end.

Im not high on subban

There was a stretch when fleury was banged up for vegas but they had to keep playing him because Subban is just too unreliable and the games were too crucial for the team. I think that was last season or the one before. And subban’s career save % is around .900 and career GAA is 2.92. Not very promising. Cam ward actually has a much better career numbers.

In no way am I claiming Subban is good, but the sample size difference between Subban and Ward makes a comparison flawed.

Subban has been disappointing so far but player trends are hard to determine fully with less than 70 games spread out over 3 seasons. Like do not get me wrong, I was be extremely nervous with Subban in net but I’d be the same with any of the options we have if Crawford is out. They’re all inexperienced with ups and downs.

Though it’s interesting you bring up Ward because the guy was terrible his first 3 regular seasons and yet also won a cup with an above average playoffs performance in that span as well. He was never as good as those playoffs for the rest of his career, either, outside of one season when the Canes were great defensively. Ward is proof that any one can get hot in the playoffs, essentially.

Excited to see more of Subban but hopefully not at the expense of Crawfords health

With no real news on his health I’m gonna keep hoping for the best and that he’ll be back soon. But this reopens those wounds about Lehner, I know it was not practical to stay but he was a great netminder and awesome guy.

Subban has some big pads to fill but I’m pretty excited for his future potential with the team.

Im sorry but there is nothing exciting about subban

We will be in big trouble if he is net against two of the top scorers in the nhl. We will need Crow to win this series

I think that's a little harsh to Subban

As the article points out, his performance decline is tied to his lack of time in the ice in Vegas. Given the way they refused to play him, it’s also pretty likely Subban wasn’t getting a lot of coaching there either.

Would I prefer Crawford in goal? Obviously.

But if he’s unable to play it will mean more time on the ice and hopefully that will be the opportunity Subban is looking for.

Yeah starting subban now is not ideal time for him

McD and draisaitl are near unstoppable and hawks defense is not good. It will be very interesting to see how things will go if Crow can play though as I like our chances if he is in net.

I was half-expecting this article

to just be a blank page with only the title prominently displayed.

My initial plan was to have this be the whole article

#DespairForLafreniere

that would have been funny

But i tend to agree with 88 there

Subban will be gone in a month

so I’d rather that we give the chance to either Delia or Lankinen and see how they respond

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