Stars extend Blackhawks’ losing streak to seven as goalie Kevin Lankinen regresses again
After three consecutive decent outings, Lankinen — who has won only four of 22 starts this season — struggled again in a 6-4 defeat Sunday.
There’s an unwritten but steadfastly followed rule for NHL coaches never to criticize — and certainly never to blame a loss on — their goaltender.
Interim coach Derek King did his best to follow that rule after the Blackhawks’ 6-4 loss Sunday to the Stars — their seventh consecutive defeat — but he couldn’t completely skirt the struggles of starter Kevin Lankinen.
‘‘We could’ve used a couple of stops here and there — and I’m sure the goalies feel the same way — but I’ll never throw goalies [under the bus] or anything,’’ King said. ‘‘We need to be better in front of them, I guess.’’
He later said: ‘‘[Lankinen] was just off, that’s all. He was having an off-night, just like some of our players have had off-nights. It’s just magnified with the goalie because he’s the last resource defending.’’
To his credit, Lankinen has avoided cratering completely at any point this season. Every awful stretch has been countered by a respectable stretch. Since his embarrassing third-period meltdown March 28 against the Sabres, for example, he had gone three consecutive games with a save percentage of .905 or better, including some overtime heroics against the Coyotes and a stellar 60-minute effort against the Kraken.
But if alternating awful and respectable stretches doesn’t sound like an effective formula for seasonlong success, that’s because it isn’t. Lankinen has won only four of 22 starts, with little help from the team in front of him, and now sports an .886 save percentage.
He exited Sunday — replaced by Collin Delia at the second intermission — having allowed five goals on 20 shots, and four of them were probably stoppable. Jamie Benn scored off a juicy rebound in front, Roope Hintz slid a relatively slow shot past Lankinen along the ice and Jason Robertson took advantage of him twice, first when Lankinen lost track of his net and the puck and later when Lankinen simply was beaten by a clean shot.
‘‘He’s played well,’’ King said of Lankinen. ‘‘He has kept us in games and not [been] rewarded. And tonight, it just wasn’t his night.’’
Forward Boris Katchouk’s first takeaway about Chicago, his new home, is the food selection.
‘‘I could go to a new restaurant every day of the season,’’ he joked before the game. ‘‘It’s a cool city, for sure.’’
Katchouk arrived with little in the way of expectations. He has adjusted more slowly than former Lightning teammate Taylor Raddysh has, but he finally notched his first goal — and first point — with the Hawks by blasting a one-timer past Stars goalie Jake Oettinger.
‘‘It has been up and down,’’ Katchouk said. ‘‘There’s some good games, but there’s also some bad games. But I expected that. I’m just coming into each and every game and trying to put my best foot forward. I’m not here to score a ton of goals or anything like that. I’m here to play a 200-foot game.’’
The new-look fourth line of Katchouk, Reese Johnson and MacKenzie Entwistle was the Hawks’ best Sunday.
King, who previously had urged Katchouk to focus on playing a ‘‘north-south game’’ with a strong emphasis on forechecking, showered them with praise.
‘‘They were outstanding,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s good for them. They had a job. We talked to them about how they had to play, [and] they played it to a ‘T.’ ’’