Blackhawks

Breaking down just how great Collin Delia has been for Blackhawks

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AP

Breaking down just how great Collin Delia has been for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been fortunate over the last decade because they haven't had to worry about the most important position in the sport: goaltending.

They've been able to rely on Corey Crawford ever since he broke into the NHL, but it took a while for the league to appreciate the role he played in their two Stanley Cup victories. When he went down with a concussion in December of 2017, it really opened eyes on just how valuable he was — and is — to the team.

The Blackhawks, unfortunately, are back in that same boat where they're living life without Crawford. But they're in a much better place now than they were a year ago because of the emergence of Collin Delia.

On the surface, his numbers are great: a 2.49 goals against average and .939 save percentage in six starts this season.

But the underlying numbers are spectacular. Let's run through them, courtesy of naturalstattrick.com and corsica.hockey:

— Delia is facing an average of 40.8 shots per game over his six starts and nobody is seeing more rubber from up close than him, with an average shot distance of 32.1 feet. And yet, his high-danger save percentage at 5-on-5 is .919.

(For comparison's sake, Pekka Rinne, the 2017-18 Vezina Trophy winner, ranks first among starting goaltenders in that department this season with a .905 save percentage.)

— Delia is facing an average of 12.7 high-danger chances total per game, which generally comes from the slot area and lower slot. Ten of his 15 goals against have come from there. Five of them have come from the medium-danger area, which is around the high slot. He has a perfect 1.000 save percentage on low-danger shots, which essentially comes from anywhere else.

— Delia's goals saved above average at 5-on-5 is 8.58, meaning that's how many goals he has saved his team relative to if a league average goaltender were put in his situation. That's more than a goal per game, which is an absurd rate.

When relayed some of these numbers to Delia, he responded like someone who still isn't satisfied with where his game is at and is constantly looking for ways to improve.

"I think just preparing before the game, we might have some breakdowns and my job is to be there," Delia said. "I can't necessarily mitigate breakdowns, but I can be there to come up big, make a big save here and there. But there's even been a few times where a couple breakaways have gone in that I think I could save and it's my responsibility to take ownership of my role and I like doing it."

One of Delia's tougher tests came on Monday in a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks gave up 23 high-danger chances (11 in the third period), which was tied for their second-most of the season. Delia stopped 20 of them. He was the reason the Blackhawks were in it til the final minute.

"I look back at that Calgary game, it's 3-2 and he made some big, big saves to keep it at 3-2 and give us a chance to be able to tie it up late," Patrick Kane said. "That's huge when you get that from your goaltender. It gives the team a lot of momentum and keeps you in the game, obviously. I think the biggest thing with him, you watch him and he's calm in there, it doesn't seem like he's ever moving too much or out of position. He's calm, he reads the shot and he's able to stop it when he sees it most of the time."

History indicates a regression is coming at some point. But not necessarily because Delia can't keep playing at this high of a level. It's because the percentage won't always favor the goaltenders if the high-danger chances continue to increase.

The Blackhawks, who have allowed by far the most high-danger chances at 5-on-5 this season, know they have to cut those quality scoring chances down and tighten up for their goaltenders.

"I’m not looking for regression," coach Jeremy Colliton said of Delia. "We’re trying to help him prepare as best he can to give us a chance to win every night. That’s separate from how the team’s playing. The team needs to defend hard. We want to give up less shots. We want to decrease the quality of the chance against, and that’s an ongoing process. We’re not thinking, ‘Oh, he plays well when he gets a lot of work.' That’s not what we’re looking for. But there’s no reason why he can’t keep playing the way he is."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: An inside look at the Blackhawks Hockey Ops department with Senior VP Al MacIsaac

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle catches up with Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Al MacIsaac. They discuss the process the Blackhawks took in transforming the roster this off-season. MacIsaac is entering his 20th year with the Blackhawks and talks about the organizational changes over the last two decades. He also weighs in on the role analytics plays in evaluating current or potential Blackhawks and he explains why the team made a commitment to make its new practice facility the “gold standard” of the NHL.

0:45 – MacIsaac on changes within the Blackhawks organization in the last 20 years

4:00 – How the Blackhawks have added great depth this summer

5:25 – A good problem to have with two good goaltenders

6:23 – How the hockey ops meeting went at the end of last season

8:45 – How much the Blackhawks use and rely on analytics

10:27 – The importance of the Blackhawks strength and conditioning programs

12:24 – The planning behind Fifth Third Arena’s development

14:40 – The dynamic between hockey ops and business ops

16:37 – Agreements and disagreements within the hockey ops group

18:32 – MacIsaac’s longtime relationship with Mark Bernard

20:27 – Looking ahead to training camp and the regular season

22:42 – Tough decisions will need to be made when the season starts

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw on his career season in Montreal and adding toughness to Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw had a terrific 2018-19 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He set a career high with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) despite missing 19 games due to injuries and averaged 15:55 of ice time, which was the highest of his NHL career.

When asked to explain why he believes he had the best offensive output of his career, Shaw pointed to one thing.

“Honestly I just think it was the hunger for the game," Shaw said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "I missed nine months with knee surgery and concussions. I battled back to get back to where I needed to be and just started having fun again. Maybe I’m bigger, stronger, older. I think I’ve been in situations in games so many times that you’re better at reacting to them so I think that maybe that has a little bit to do with it.”

The Blackhawks reacquired Shaw because they've lacked some jam in their game over the past couple seasons. And looking at the other moves GM Stan Bowman has made this summer, it's clear that's an area they prioritized.

Shaw noticed it too and he's excited to see how it'll all come together this coming season.

“I still have to be me," Shaw said. "I still have to go out there and work and compete and bring the energy I’ve always brought. I think it’s the intensity and the love of the game that pushes me to do that so I think it’s something that others feed off of. With a couple other guys they brought in, too, we got a little bit more grit, a little bit more defensive game. I think it’s going to be a really good year.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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