NEW YORK — As the Blackhawks’ ambitions for this season fade, and they’re doing so rapidly, the emphasis will shift fully to the future. A winless week nudged them that direction a bit more.
Rookie goaltender Collin Delia could be a significant part of where the franchise goes from here, but there were some moments he’d like to have back from the 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.
“Disappointed more than frustrated,” he said after stopping 29 of 32 shots.
Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton defended Delia and pinned it on poor defensive play just as he did when Cam Ward allowed six goals on 25 shots against the Devils.
This particular goaltending job is among the toughest in the league. Delia’s been good, but he’d have to be elite for the Hawks to survive the way their defense has played.
“We had a couple letdowns, mental errors or whatever it may be, [and] it just ended up in the back of our net, which was unfortunate after the start we had,” Colliton said.
He added, “Delia was good. They got some really good chances end up in the back of the net.”
Delia didn’t feel great about it and took the blame for the Rangers’ first and third goals.
Rangers center Filip Chytil dashed the Hawks’ early lead by going virtually the length of the rink and skating past Henri Jokijarhu so effortlessly it looked like they must have spent weeks choreographing it. Chytil finished by faking to Delia’s right and shooting over his left shoulder.
That sequence began with a blatant hooking violation by Rangers wing Jesper Fast that wasn’t called, but the Hawks didn’t do much to recover from that.
The Rangers got another goal when Delia didn’t secure a loose puck, and Mats Zuccarello reached behind him to tap it into the net.
Duncan Keith broke up a rush headed toward Delia, then instantly turned it over and gave Chris Kreider a good look at close range. The crowd at the net made it nearly impossible for Delia to get an eye on the puck, much less a glove.
Delia withstood that, came back out in the third period and stopped all 11 shots.
“My mind was on the next shot and making the next save,” he said. “You have to take the emotion out of it. I can’t play reactionary. I have to be calculated and stoic in my approach.”
That’s impressive composure for a 24-year-old making his 10th career start, and his calm, clinical understanding of the game is the biggest reason for the Hawks to believe in him as their potential successor to Corey Crawford.
Whether Delia ascends to that level, it hinges on skill, too, but he has certainly proven he has the right mentality. He’s learning the skills, and that’ll be an ongoing process.
Great goalies aren’t made in a microwave. This won’t be his last disappointing night.
It’s going to be an especially rocky path for him on this team. After holding the Rangers without a shot on goal the first six minutes of the game, the Hawks allowed 22 by the end of the second period and 32 total.
Delia has faced an average of 38.8 shots per start since being called up in December. The fact that he’s put up a .923 save percentage amid that kind of pelting is excellent. And him not being satisfied with that is even better.
“I want to be sharper and tighter, and I know I can be,” he said. “Tonight is disappointing, but I’ll learn from it and be better because of it.”