Hindsight, as we all know, is 20/20.
It’s easy to second-guess a decision after the result of a play that goes awry or a performance goes off the rails.
Rarely, however, do we wonder if the third-string quarterback, running back or point guard should have seen more playing time after they shred the competition with some impressive performances down the stretch. After all, those guys are buried on the depth chart because the players ahead of them are far more talented.
That’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the Blackhawks’ situation in net, where Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia were going to battle all season for playing time.
Instead, Lankinen established himself as the clear No. 1 by going 7-2-2 with a sparkling .938 save percentage from January 22 to February 17.
There’s no doubt the Hawks did the right thing by riding the hot hand as Lankinen was smooth, confident and definitely earned the job.
But the backup role should have been a rotation between Subban and Delia.
Not Subban, Subban, Subban, Subban …
Nothing on Subban’s resume suggested he would be anything but a backup, and he proved as much once again by going 6-8-1 with a .900 save percentage and 3.20 goals against average.
Did he have some fantastic performances and spectacular saves? Absolutely.
But he also allowed 3 or more goals in 11 of 16 apperances.
Meanwhile, Delia — who has had just one extended shot at the NHL level — sat in exile. He went 3½ months between NHL appearances before finally entering a 5-2 loss at Carolina last Monday.
Delia stopped all 19 shots he saw that night, 22 of 26 the next and 36 of 37 during a 2-1 overtime win Thursday. He was incredible during that last game, stopping high-danger chance after high-danger chance from some of the best players on the NHL’s best team.
“I was talking to Lanky and Suby after the game and we were just commenting on when you can get into that rhythm, you start to really see the puck well,” said Delia, whose save percentage in those three games was .939. “The puck seems big and it seems slow. You’re able to read the situations coming at you, and the lag time between the decision making becomes less and less.”
Look, this was a tough year for everyone. That includes every coaching staff as they had to navigate difficult roster requirements — one of which required them to carry three goaltenders.
Still, this was obstentially a rebuilding year for the Hawks. They really should have given Delia more of an opportunity — especially considering his first two games came at Tampa Bay and Florida when the Hawks were essentially still figuring each other out.
Asked if he agreed, Colliton said: “I think you take the situation you’re in and information you have and make the decision. It doesn’t mean it always turns out perfect, but all three guys have had some success and all three guys have had some struggles. That’s part of what we expected to get this season.
“Obviously the order of it for all three is different. But I think … having gotten through it it’s going to be a great experience for all three and hopefully they can use it to make them better.”
Calvin de Haan (hip) and Ryan Carpenter (concussion protocol) both practiced Saturday, but both are unlikely to play in the Hawks’ final two games. Duncan Keith and Brett Connolly (concussions) are both out for the season.
Nikita Zadorov took a maintenance day Saturday.
Approximately 4,000 fans will be in attendance when the Hawks host Dallas on Sunday and Monday. It will be the largest crowd at the United Center since the coronavirus halted league operations in March 2020.
“It’ll be a good thing, no question for the players — that energy and reconnecting with our fans,” said coach Jeremy Colliton. “It’s such a great atmosphere, great experience when it’s full building. And obviously it won’t be full, but hopefully the people who are there got a lot of enthusiasm and I’m sure that energy will help our guys.”
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