All the ingredients are in place for Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock to contend for the Masterton Trophy this season.
A comeback story? After missing more than a year with COVID-19-induced myocarditis in his heart, he checks that box. Dedication to hockey? That’s evident both in his daily work ethic and in his determination to make that aforementioned comeback.
A successful season? There’s a long way to go, but Stalock’s performance so far has been encouraging. That would certainly provide a fitting final chapter to the fairytale.
But Stalock, personally, isn’t thinking about any of that. Instead, the 35-year-old Minnesotan is enjoying simply being part of a team again. It’s fun for him, as he makes very clear.
“That’s why I love coming to the rink: Being around a group of guys,” he said Monday. “Obviously, we have fun when we’re on the ice. You love playing the games. But to be…around a group that’s having fun, it’s fun to be back.
“[This team has] a good mix. A ton of youth, kids that love to have fun. They’re in the NHL, they’re new to it, and every day to them is a joy. You’ve got veterans in here that have won many [Stanley] Cups and been around a long time … Everybody likes to put in the work, and it’s clicking for us right now. [There’s] nothing to complain about.”
Stalock is as true to himself in the locker room as he is on the ice, where his fearless willingness to leave his crease to play the puck or aggressively challenge shooters — as well as to try any other crazy maneuvers that might possibly stop the puck — immediately elevates the excitement level of every game in which he’s involved.
Off the ice, his weathered appearance, wild arm gestures, seen-it-all attitude and gregarious personality have made him an instantly popular teammate.
“He’s that energy-style goalie,” coach Luke Richardson said. “The guys love him. He gave out the team award after the game [Sunday] night and everyone loved it. [There was] a big roar for him. The players really battle for the guys who battle for them, so it’s nice to see.”
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He did allow four goals Sunday against the Kraken, but he was hardly at fault for any of them, and he made several key saves at key times that enabled the Hawks’ rally.
Through his first three appearances, Stalock has now saved 76 of 81 shots for a .938 save percentage. His goals saved above average (GSAA) is plus-2.9, which ranked 11th among 63 goalies league-wide entering Monday.
He has closely resembled his form as a stellar rotational goalie with the Wild back in 2019-20, when he posted a 20-11-4 record, .910 save percentage and plus-8.5 GSAA.
And with Petr Mrazek sidelined for another week or two by a strained groin, Stalock will remain the Hawks’ primary backstop in the short-term future. Prospect Arvid Soderblom was previously expected to start one of the two remaining games on the homestand — either Tuesday against the Panthers or Thursday against the Oilers — but Richardson said Stalock will actually start both. Stalock and Soderblom will likely then split the back-to-back weekend games against the Sabres and Wild.
Stalock certainly won’t complain about the hefty workload, though. After enduring two years essentially out of the league, he cherishes the opportunity to settle into a rhythm again.
“If you don’t play for a couple weeks, you go in and you’re trying to catch up to the speed of the NHL,” he said. “[When] you can be in there every other night, [you can] pick up where you left off just a night or two ago. It makes it easier.
“The way things are going here right now, it’s a good feeling for everybody.”