The Chicago Blackhawks are red hot these days. They swept their brief two-game road trip after beating the St. Louis Blues 5-3 Saturday night, and have won eight of their last 11 games. While this stretch is making people itchy about landing the top spot in the NHL Entry Draft, it is great to see this particular group of guys get rewarded for their hard work.
Jaxson Stauber Earns Win in NHL Debut
One year ago, Jaxson Stauber was an undrafted free agent playing for Providence College. After posting 21 wins and a .921 save percentage (SV%), he was signed to an entry-level contract in late March. The 21-year-old netminder has struggled a bit in the American Hockey League (AHL) with a 3.06 goals-against average (GAA) and .896 SV% in 12 games for the Rockford IceHogs.
With Alex Stalock back in concussion protocol and Arvid Söderblom out with an injury in Rockford, Stauber got the call to Chicago. He was given the start on Saturday night as the Blackhawks are right back in action on Sunday.
When asked what advice he had for the young goaltender, head coach Luke Richardson laughingly said, “Talk to Jimmy!” Of course, he was referring to goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.
“Enjoy it,” he added. “He’s had an excellent work ethic in practice. He’s all business. He grew up in the lifestyle. I’m sure he gets a lot of input from his dad [Robb Stauber] from his playing days. The goalie position is unique. I’ll let Jimmy prepare the goalies and he’s done a great job this year.”
Stauber was challenged right away as the Blues had the first 10 shots of the game, but he stood tall and took a shutout into the first intermission. Jordan Kyrou was the first NHL player to score on Stauber with his second-period power-play goal, coming on St. Louis’ 14th shot of the night.
He made 28 saves to become the first Blackhawks goaltender to win his NHL debut since Collin Delia did so on March 28, 2018.
Bottom Six Leads the Charge
The Blackhawks have now won six out of their last seven games and have numerous reasons to for the hot streak.
“The guys are having fun enjoying each other and playing,” Richardson said after morning skate. “We’re on the road quite a bit now. That helps build a team. Winning is fun and it becomes contagious. We just to make sure we push that as far as we can and don’t take the foot off the pedal.”
The bottom six was the biggest reason for the victory in St. Louis. Sam Lafferty and Jason Dickinson set the tone by scoring on the Blackhawks’ first two shots of the night. Dickinson, who scored his first goal in 30 games, finished with three points. The third line of Laffery, Dickinson and Athanasiou combined for three goals and six points.
Reese Johnson scored for his second straight game with his mates on the fourth line, Colin Blackwell and MacKenzie Entwistle picking up the assists. Blackwell has six points on the season, with four them coming in his last six games.
In the end, the bottom six scored three of the four Blackhawks goals and accounted for eight of their 18 shots on goal.
Seth Jones stays hot
If you listened to the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast after Thursday’s win over the Philadelphia Flyers, who heard us sing the praises of Seth Jones. Since being named an All-Star, he has played his best hockey of the season. He is starting to be the consistent offensive threat the Blackhawks hoped he’d be when they acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Jones picked up the secondary assist on Dickinson’s opening goal. He now has a point in four straight games. The Blackhawks’ lone All-Star has three goals and 12 points in his last eight games. He is up to four goals and 21 points on the season.