Blackhawks’ loss to Sabres spoils Arvid Soderblom’s stellar game

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Blackhawks goalie prospect Arvid Soderblom already has shown his talent at almost every level and in almost every setting. In Sweden, in Rockford of the American Hockey League and in the NHL preseason, he has excelled consistently.

But he hasn’t yet shown his best stuff in a meaningful NHL regular-season game and earned a victory for his efforts.

For a long time, Saturday looked as though it finally would be that breakthrough night — and Soderblom deserved for it to be. But the Hawks let him down late in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Sabres.

”He played great,” Hawks coach Luke Richardson said. ”He really deserved better tonight. He looked really calm in there, made some really big saves on the primary scoring chances. That’s something we want to clean up as a team, especially in front of a young goaltender, but he showed a lot of poise.”

Said Soderblom: ”Personally, I felt really good out there. [I made] a lot of good saves. I played my game and did my best. It always sucks to lose.”

Soderblom, 23, stopped 36 of the first 37 shots he faced but finished with a less remarkable stat line of 41 saves on 45 shots after the Sabres rallied late.

Tage Thompson scored twice in the last nine minutes of regulation before Victor Olofsson tallied the game-winner on a power play 36 seconds into overtime.

”We [need to] go back a step, take a look at this and realize it’s now two [bad] games, it’s not just one,” Richardson said, also referring to the Hawks’ 6-5 loss Thursday to the Oilers. ”We have to . . . play just a little bit smarter situationally, like laying pucks ahead to the next zone and doing a little bit of forechecking or getting changes in and not turning over pucks.”

The Hawks’ defensive miscues enabled Soderblom to demonstrate many of his strengths. He made 14 high-danger saves, tied for the most by any Hawks goalie since Corey Crawford on Feb. 21, 2020.

Soderblom plays a somewhat opposite style in goal to teammate Alex Stalock. While Stalock injects any game with chaos, Soderblom’s presence almost makes one forget there’s a goalie at all. He makes the job look that easy.

The Sabres generated several semi-breakaways that Soderblom stopped by challenging the shooter to cut down his angle — his 6-3 frame doesn’t leave much open space — then using his quick glove-hand reflexes to snare the shot.

”[He’s] understanding [that] with his size, he doesn’t need to cheat,” Richardson said. ”He has to trust he’ll get there. It makes him feel confident. A big guy with a good glove, that’s a good recipe for a good goaltender.”

The Hawks have high hopes for Soderblom not only because of how talented he looks but also because of his stellar results at every stage of his career to date.

He posted .924 and .921 save percentages in his last two seasons in Sweden’s pro leagues, a .919 save percentage in 38 AHL games last season and a .939 save percentage in a preseason start with the Hawks last month.

But he hasn’t fully translated that skill into big-league results yet. His career NHL save percentage remains an underwhelming .879, weighed down by two tough starts last winter.

And he might not get many more opportunities this season if Petr Mrazek returns soon. The Hawks would prefer Soderblom to keep building confidence in Rockford.

”[That was] . . . my best game so far,” he said. ”You want to get the win. [I’m] sad it didn’t come today, but hopefully it comes in the future.”

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