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Nashville Predators

It’s Time For Kevin Lankinen To Stop Flying Under The Radar



Photo of Kevin Lankinen by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Playing a top-three team in the NHL with a franchise-record point streak on the line, Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette had no reservations about backup goaltender Kevin Lankinen holding his own against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

The 28-year-old Finn did more than just hold down the fort as he turned away all 33 shots he faced to earn his first shutout since March 25, 2021, which was also a 3-0 win over the Panthers.

“It was a great effort from the whole team,” Lankinen said. “[Florida] is one of the best teams in the League right now and we went head-to-head and out-battled and out-played them. That shows a lot of character, shows what kind of team we are. It’s just so much fun to be a part of this and I’m really proud of the guys.”

Thursday wasn’t the first time this season that Lankinen has been thrown into the fire.

Of his 14 starts, 10 of them have been against playoff teams, nine of them have been on the road, seven of those teams had 90 or more points, and Lankinen has beaten six of them.

“I’m so happy for him,” Brunette said. “This is one of the hardest places (to play) against this team, he came in and he was rock-solid all game. He’s been great for us, we put him in some really hard games on the road, and he’s come through every time. So, it’s just another notch in his belt.”

The win over the Panthers was the perfect harmony of defense and goaltending feeding off one another.

The Predators defensemen did an excellent job of clogging shooting lanes and limiting the amount of space Florida’s skaters had to shoot from. Of the Panthers’ 33 shots, only six of the were high-danger chances, only three came from the slot and just three were within three feet of the crease.

Photo via Money Puck

The Predators blue-liners also shined on the penalty kill. They smothered Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaege and company, holding the No. 3-ranked power-play unit in the NHL to just three shots on goal on two power-play opportunities.

“[The defense] did an excellent job,” Lankinen said. “I was able to see every shot, and they cleared a lot of rebounds and didn’t let them (get) scoring chances as much as they probably wanted. I’m really proud.”

On the surface, Lankinen’s 10-4-0 record and 2.90 goals-against average are awfully impressive for a No. 2 netminder. But as his teammates will tell you, Lankinen likely won’t be a backup for long.

During his two years with Nashville, Lankinen has gotten a once promising career back on track after playing two seasons in Chicago behind arguably two of the NHL’s worst teams in recent memory.

His save percentage is 10 points higher (.911 to .901), his goals-against average is nearly half-a-goal lower (2.82 to 3.25), his quality start percentage is drastically higher (.563 to. .470), as is his goals-saved above average (7.1 to -13.3).

There’s a very good chance that Lankinen is competing for another team’s starting job next season. The Predators have believed that for a while, now the rest of the league likely believes it too.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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