Blackhawks goalie Jaxson Stauber uses lessons from father Robb to win first two NHL starts

The art of goaltending has changed significantly since Robb Stauber’s aggressive career in the 1990s. But the mindset of goaltending hasn’t, and Jaxson has followed the same approach to experience immediate NHL success.

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Jaxson Stauber makes a save.

Jaxson Stauber has beaten the Blues and Flames to start his NHL career 2-0-0.

Michael Thomas/AP

Former Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad — now with the Blues — did rookie Hawks goalie Jaxson Stauber a favor in his NHL debut Jan. 21.

Seven seconds into the game, Saad harmlessly shot a puck from the outside right into Stauber’s chest. Immediately, the 23-year-old Minnesotan’s nerves subsided.

“You don’t have to move too much for those,” Stauber said, chuckling. “That helped, for sure.”

Meanwhile, in the stands in St. Louis that Saturday night, Stauber’s father, Robb — a former NHL goalie — had revived his old pregame mental routine to avoid falling victim to similar nervousness.

“To be really good in the NHL, you have to have clarity, you have to be calm and patient, you have to see things clearly and you have to play within yourself,” Robb said. “I just tried to mimic [that]. I tried to stay extremely calm, no matter what happened, and really enjoy the moment.”

Jaxson ended up making 28 more saves — most of which were much more difficult than that first one — as the Hawks won 5-3. Five days later against the Flames, he was even better, stopping 34 of 35 shots as the Hawks won 5-1.

Now he’s 2-0 with a .940 save percentage, making him the first Hawks goalie to win his first two starts since Gilles Meloche in 1971. It’s truly a storybook start to his career.

“That’s pretty special,” Jaxson said. “It’s two games, so there’s a long way to go. But it’s good to have a couple wins under my belt.”

Long before signing a two-year contract with the Hawks last spring, a young Jaxson had told his dad he wanted to follow in his footsteps to become an NHL goalie.

The physical art of goaltending has changed tremendously since Robb’s pro career in the 1990s, when he played 62 NHL games for the Kings and Sabres and another 164 games in the AHL and IHL.

The mental discipline required for goaltending has not changed, however, and Robb — who recently coached the U.S. women’s hockey team to its 2018 Olympic gold medal — promptly began imparting that advice on his son.

“It was never too early to start teaching him what it’s like to be a high-end athlete: the mindset you have to have, the professionalism,” Robb said. “It’s important to build good habits, and the mind between your ears is your greatest asset if you can use it to your benefit. Everybody has their own way to find that [benefit], but you can help them when different things come up.”

That’s exactly what the Staubers did, and their patience eventually paid off. Jaxson was never drafted and played only one game at Minnesota State, where he first committed, but finally found a home at Providence in 2021.

He went 32-21-7 with a .919 save percentage and 2.15 GAA over two seasons. Both times, he was a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award as one of the top NCAA goalies. Eventually, the Hawks came calling.

Jaxson’s journey is hardly complete after two wins, of course. His AHL numbers this season — 6-4-0 with an .896 save percentage in 12 appearances — are respectable but unspectacular. This NHL opportunity only came about because top goalie prospect Arvid Soderblom was injured when Alex Stalock suffered his most recent concussion. And both Soderblom and Boston University’s Drew Commesso remain ahead of Jaxson in the Hawks’ goalie-prospect hierarchy.

Jaxson knows that, though. He’s accustomed to working hard to climb ladders. 

“Being a goalie in the NHL, whether it’s for one game or 15 years, it’s hard,” Robb said. “To have success early is a great thing to build off.”

Different styles

Robb established a reputation as one of hockey’s most brazen, aggressive, unique goaltenders during his playing career, frequently venturing far out of his crease to challenge opposing shooters.

Jaxson isn’t quite the same.

“He gave guys something to think about, for sure,” Jaxson said. “I wouldn’t say you’ll catch me doing that too often, but I might throw one of those [rushes] in every so often and come out of the net.”

Instead, Jaxson has worked closely with Rockford goaltending coach Peter Aubry since late last season on lowering his stance and playing deeper in his crease — two adjustments designed to adapt his style from college to pro hockey, where shots are more frequently preceded by horizontal passing plays.

“Not that there’s not traffic in pro hockey, because guys have great hand-eye coordination, but the game is a little bit more east-west, with people trying to shoot off the pass,” Jaxson said in September. “You’ve got to give yourself as much time as you can when the puck’s moving quick.”

In the half-season since, he said he has gotten more comfortable with that and felt some “good progression there.” His efficiency of movement and comfort level have both been evident in these first two NHL starts.

“Even if there’s some scrambling going on [in front of him], he doesn’t look scrambly,” Hawks coach Luke Richardson said recently.

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