Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia prides himself on staying calm in all scenarios, but this was a time to embrace the chaos.
He thrashed in the net late in the second period Sunday, lunging and flopping as he tracked one skater curving behind him and another in front, waiting for a one-timer at close range. He dove from right post to left, landed on his hip, then popped up and stopped the shot by Tom Wilson with his shoulder.
“I just kind of black out a little bit,” he joked as he tried to replay the sequence in his mind. “You’re trying to find the puck at any cost. That’s all I really remember. The last thing I thought was, ‘Try to be big.’ ”
The United Center broke into a well-deserved standing ovation for Delia’s biggest play of a wild Blackhawks win over the Capitals. There were blunders, too, but he gave the Hawks enough to survive 8-5 and snap their five-game losing streak.
It was a rough game on paper, with 34 saves on 39 shots, and it’ll be a grimace-worthy film session for Delia. He called it a “polar” performance. About a minute after his acrobatic exploits to thwart that one-timer by Wilson, he let in an easy one from Dmitry Orlov. The Capitals got another soft goal in the first period when Brooks Orpik floated one between Delia’s right arm and torso before he could tighten up.
“It’s a good learning experience at this level,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Certainly there’s a couple he probably would like back, but he also made some terrific saves. . . . He hung in there and got us a win.”
Delia’s five goals allowed and .872 save percentage were season worsts, but he has reached a point where he can get over a game like this. When he thought back to the hectic save on Wilson, he knew it wasn’t as impressive as it looked and said, “You want to be cleaner than that.” He was equally dispassionate about the “couple squeakers” that got past him.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” he said. “I just focus on making the next big save and keeping the team in it. What difference can I make to keep the team in it? Sometimes you have these 8-5 games. Sometimes it’s 1-0. Your demeanor and approach can’t waver.”
Delia is unusually mature for a rookie and often talks about the job more like a been-there-done-that veteran than a 24-year-old. That’s partly the influence of Cam Ward and Corey Crawford nearby, but it’s also just how Delia is wired.
He’s good at seeing each play for what it is, and has a similarly clear view of where he stands with the team. The Hawks are going to let him work through some choppiness — the Capitals yanked starter Braden Holtby after four goals, by the way — and he doesn’t feel the pressure of playing to keep his job.
“It’s beyond that right now,” Delia said. “Once you’ve been through the ups and downs and a little adversity . . . I don’t really need to focus on that. I just play as hard as I can until they tell me they don’t need me anymore.”