Kevin Lankinen Has Started Off His Nashville Predators Career Blazing

Nashville Predators goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Kevin Lankinen was a huge difference-maker in the 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames as the Nashville Predators look to right the ship on what has been a troubling start to 2022-23.

Usually when you turn to the backup goalie it’s on a back-to-back and you just hope they don’t give the game away. However, there are a few teams that have the luxury of having a quality one-two punch that they can rely on to win games on their own, and it’s looking like the Predators might have that.

For instance, against Calgary, Lankinen stepped up in a clutch way in the third period when he faced 14 shots and kept the Flames comeback attempt at bay. He ensured the Predators didn’t squander another third period lead.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Lankinen signing over the offseason threw me off. I’m always willing to eat my words when proven wrong, and at least through his first three starts and also his preseason outings, Lankinen looks the part as a quality backup.

With the Connor Ingram era in Arizona seeing some growing pains, the Predators are on much sturdier ground with Lankinen lining up behind Juuse Saros over Ingram. Things can always change in a hurry, but it looks good as of now.

Nashville Predators Have a High Quality One-Two Punch in Net

As this season rolls on, if Lankinen continues to put up impressive showings, then the Predators will have to effectively balance when to start the two goalies. It won’t be as simple as if it’s the back end of a back-to-back.

We saw this example very clearly on Thursday against the Flames as the Predators chose to give Lankinen his third start of the season in Game 11 overall. Lankinen didn’t disappoint, making 29 saves for a .967 save percentage and coming up very clutch in the third period as the Flames peppered him with 14 shots in their comeback attempt.

No lead ever feels safe with this Nashville Predators team, so having Lankinen put up the brick wall was awesome to see.

Lankinen is performing at a top-10 level in many different categories according to He is ninth in save percentage on Unblocked Shots at .966, and is 10th in High Danger Unblocked Shots Save Percentage at .857.

How Should the Preds Manage the Starts for Saros and Lankinen?

I fully understand it’s a small sample size as he only has played in three games, but these are still very encouraging signs to know you can turn to your backup and feel just as confident as if Juuse Saros is in net.

Saros has been the victim of some shaky defensive breakdowns in front of him, while also not being his normal Vezina Trophy caliber self. He has struggled in the high danger situations, unlike Lankinen.

Many of the models suggest that Saros has had no favors done for him from the defense in front of him, but to the same tune, he hasn’t stepped up and made the really critical saves that elite goalies have to make.

Lankinen per 60 minutes is saving nearly an extra goal which is also among the best in the NHL currently, while Saros is in the negative and falls back to 35th among NHL goaltenders.

Again, this isn’t to say that Lankinen is better than Saros. It’s just to illustrate that the Predators appear to have a trustworthy backup in Lankinen and will have to manage effectively how many starts he gets over Saros throughout the season. It won’t be that simple but is also a nice problem to have.

My ratio moving forward would be to give Saros two out of every three starts, or around that average. For all you know, Lankinen can continue to string together some really hot starts that pushes the team to some big wins and you want to keep him in a groove if that’s the case.

Keeping goalies hot and not letting them lose that by riding the bench for weeks on end is important. You also don’t want to take away too many starts from an elite goaltender like Saros is, so it is a balancing act to deal with.

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You give Saros the obvious start on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, see how he performs, and judging on that you make a decision about Tuesday. If Saros has another game where he gets lit up, then I’m not opposed to throwing another start Lankinen’s way on Tuesday against the Seattle Kraken.

The Predators didn’t have this luxury last season. They had to ride Saros to the very end with David Rittich not being available early on and being more of a liability when he did finally get some spot starts here and there. We know how that ended with the franchise’s first sweep in its history.

It’s been pretty bleak for the Nashville Predators through 11 games and a mediocre 4-6-1 record. One shred of positive is that Saros and Lankinen are a great duo that a majority of teams would kill for right now.

As the season grinds on, having Saros and Lankinen at your disposal is going to win this team some crucial games. As bad as it has been, I still fully expect the Nashville Predators to remain in the postseason race thanks in large part to their stability between the pipes.