Blackhawks' Colliton likes Delia's effort in loss to Hurricanes

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia made his first start for the team since Jan. 17 on Tuesday night in a 6-3 loss to Carolina.

    Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia made his first start for the team since Jan. 17 on Tuesday night in a 6-3 loss to Carolina. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/4/2021 9:20 PM

Collin Delia has always exuded an aura of California Cool.

He's laid back, relaxed, contemplative and downright polite.

 

But it hardly means he's not competitive. And extremely competitive, at that.

"I love to play, I love to compete and I'm super grateful for this opportunity," Delia said after making 19 saves while relieving Malcolm Subban in the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss at Carolina on Monday.

Less than 24 hours later, the Rancho Cucamonga, California, native made his first NHL start since Jan. 17 and stopped 22 shots during the Hawks' 6-3 loss at Carolina.

"He was strong for us," said coach Jeremy Colliton, whose team has lost six straight. "Made some big saves, so not much to complain about there. I thought he was good."

Delia wasn't tested much early on, but he made an impressive stop of a Teuvo Teravainen one-timer with 7½ minutes remaining in the second period. It was a huge stop during an 86-second two-man advantage for the Hurricanes, but Carolina would tie things at 2-2 when Andrei Svechnikov scored from long distance at 15:56. The shot deflected off Nikita Zadorov's stick and evaded a screened Delia.

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Svechnikov scored again early in the third period on a breakaway, and Teravainen made it 4-2 just three minutes later after he was allowed to sneak into the slot uncontested.

Alex DeBrincat (27, 28) scored a pair of goals for the Hawks, and Mike Hardman (1) notched the first NHL goal of his career.

"A season in exile" might be a good headline for Delia during an odd campaign in which all teams must carry three goaltenders. With Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban doing an adequate job, Delia -- who must clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL -- saw precious little playing time.

"(I was) seeing how things were going, and also he has searched me out a couple times," Colliton said. "It's a hard situation. It's a weird year, where every team is carrying an extra guy. ... No one wants to lose their third goalie to waivers.

"Tough situation for him, but in the last month or so he's clearly done a really good job to prepare himself for this opportunity. He's played well in the chances he's gotten so far."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's just another frustrating chapter for the 26-year-old, whose first experience between the pipes came while playing roller hockey at age 5.

His odyssey included time at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts; a short, difficult stint with the ECHL's Indy Fuel; and a successful run in Rockford where he helped lead the IceHogs on a deep playoff run in 2018.

After making 16 appearances for the Hawks in 2018-19, it appeared Delia would back up Corey Crawford last season. That is until GM Stan Bowman had Robin Lehner fall into his lap.

The Lehner signing sent Delia back to Rockford, where he went 16-13-1 with a .912 save percentage and 2.66 goals-against average.

As last season's training camp was ending, I asked Delia if a lot of playing time in the minors might be better than getting spot duty in the NHL. His response: Maybe, maybe not.

"Everybody talks about if you are (an NHL) backup, 'Oh, you're not getting your reps,'" Delia said. "But are we talking about just because you're playing games you're getting better? I don't think so.

"It's all about how you prepare. If you're crap for half of those 20 games, what's the point? But if you can play 20 really good games as a backup, that's something to build upon."

Which brings us to this season, where not only has Delia played just eight times (4 NHL, 4 AHL), but he's also barely getting any good reps. The only thing Delia can do is to continue working with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite before and after practices.

"It's definitely been a long road for me, but my focus is just trying to help the team win the best I can," Delia said. "If that's playing or if that's playing in a supportive role, so be it. Whatever I'm called to do I'm just going to try to be ready regardless."

Roster notes:

Kirby Dach was held out of Tuesday's game with right wrist scar tissue aggravation. MacKenzie Entwhistle took Dach's spot in the lineup.

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