Anyone would think twice to grab a puck with his bare hand in the middle of an NHL game, that is unless you’re 27-year-old goaltender Kevin Lankinen who did that exact thing in the Nashville Predators’ win on Friday.
The Finnish goaltender on a one-year deal has been coming up big for the Nashville Predators 23 games into this season.
“Lankinen has done everything we’ve asked from him every game,” Predators GM David Poile said Tuesday, Nov. 29. “The goaltending surely gives us a chance to win every game.”
Rittich was 6-3-4 in his lone season as a Predator with a 3.57 GAA and a .886 save percentage.
Ingram wasn’t any better posting a 1-2-0 record in 2021-22 and lost his first three postseason starts to the Colorado Avalanche.
Nashville Predators offseason addition of Lankinen paying off
Nashville chose to move on from them both Ingram and Rittich, with only Devin Cooley left with AHL experience.
With the Nashville Predators top goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov still developing, now in Milwaukee, the front office went to free agency and chose Lankinen to step up to the plate.
So far this season Lankinen has been exactly what a goaltender should do. He’s been relieving his teammate and holding up his end while doing so. Not to mention Saros and Lankinen have 11 pairs of back-to-back game situations left in the season.
The duo of Saros and Lankinen is making a huge impact on the Nashville Predators charging back into the postseason picture with still over half the season left to play.
Last season, Saros led the NHL with 67 starts. Adding on the starts Saros has this season he still leads the NHL with 84 starts, tied with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.
Lankinen is 3-3-0 through his six starts and he’s no stranger to starting after playing two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. While playing there he went 25-29-11.
Furthermore, Lankinen has 13 games during his NHL career with 37-plus save performances. In those games, he is 5-4-4 overall allowing 38 goals and posting a 2.88 GAA & .931 SV%.
Lankinen’s latest win was against the New York Islanders making a career-high 48 saves on 49 shots against.
The Finnish netminder chuckled to himself still catching his breath following his best game.
“Everybody knew what it took to win, this is a great hockey team,” Lankinen said postgame on 102.5 The Game. “I got lucky a couple of times, we got some good bounces, but at this same time I feel confident in the net working hard with goalie coach [Ben Vanderklok].”
Did Lankinen even think when he reached for the puck with his bare hand? To him, it was just an instinct he had to keep the puck out of the net.
“Today was one of those whatever it takes nights,” Lankinen said. “I mean if the defenseman blocks the shot with his face it’s the least I can do to make some saves.”
That one defenseman was Ryan McDonagh who was just placed on injured reserve on Monday.
Lankinen and Saros combined for back-to-back wins on the road and it proved what it would take to run with some of the best teams in the league.
“We wanted to get off to a good start in this next segment of 20 games,” Lankinen said. “We wanted to measure where we were at right now. I think the battle level and the compete and the way we play is right there with the other teams.”
It’s too early to tell but if both Lankinen and Saros stay healthy there could be a 52/30 game split between the duo in between the pipes for the Predators this season. Allowing Saros some more breathing room may be what Nashville needs to be ready for postseason play.