Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia had no time to blink, let alone think. In a flash, one of the NHL’s emerging superstars was on him like a mongoose on a wounded snake.
The Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau came in alone on Delia and squeezed a shot through the five-hole to give the Flames a 3-2 lead in a game they’d win 4-3 on Monday. It was the first loss in regulation for Delia, whose numbers through five starts — a 3-1-1 record, 2.19 goals-against average and .947 save percentage — still are mighty impressive.
But would he ever like to have that chance against Gaudreau back.
‘‘I just didn’t get my knees down hard enough,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, give him credit. It was a good shot. But I feel like that’s a save I can make, and it just slips through barely.’’
Other challenges are easier to see coming for the 24-year-old, who was promoted from the Hawks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford after veteran Corey Crawford suffered a concussion a week before Christmas.
One is the ongoing competition for playing time with Cam Ward, who has underwhelmed in his first season with the Hawks. Another is the unknown of what might happen to Delia if and when Crawford returns this season.
Then again, it might be as simple as this: Delia is locking down the No. 1 job for the time being. That has a nice ring to it, as far as he’s concerned.
‘‘I think every goalie wants to play as much as possible,’’ he said.
Despite Gaudreau’s go-ahead goal in the third period — which came off a bad line change on a night the Hawks did Delia no favors —Delia is a perfect 5-for-5 in terms of the eyeball test.
He twice has been superb against the Avalanche, and he stood tall despite facing inordinately high numbers of shots — 98 in all — from the Wild and Islanders. And stopping 39 of 42 shots against the red-hot Flames, who added a late empty-netter, hardly requires an apology.
‘‘He’s been rock-solid for us back there,’’ Hawks star Patrick Kane said.
Coach Jeremy Colliton isn’t ready to commit to Delia beyond acknowledging that his inclination is to go with the hot hand.
‘‘I feel pretty good about him,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘He’s been everything we’ve asked with the opportunities he’s received. We still don’t want to overplay him. We want to allow him to keep [up] his level. But he’s doing a great job in there.’’
These are fun times for a player who was undrafted out of Merrimack College, a Hockey East non-power that doesn’t exactly boast a who’s who of alumni in the NHL. But there isn’t any ‘‘aw, shucks’’ in Delia. He wants to play. He wants the pressure. He isn’t the least bit afraid of what’s coming.
‘‘I just want to battle, you know?’’ he said. ‘‘That’s my M.O. From start to finish, I want to make sure I battle all the way and give the guys a chance to win. It’s really a pretty simple recipe.’’
NOTE: The Hawks have moved up from last in the NHL on the power play to 24th with a 10-for-30 stretch in their last 10 games. Is this really the same team that began the season in an impossibly bad 12-for-105 rut?
‘‘We’ve got good players,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘They’re moving the puck clean and flat. And I feel like when they go over the boards, they feel like they can make a difference in the game.’’