Blackhawks 2022-23 season preview: Goaltending

A pair of new goalies will be in the Chicago crease this season.

With the first game of the 2021-22 NHL season just two days away, it’s time to start examining the players who’ll be taking the ice for the Blackhawks this season. Up first, it’s the goaltenders.

After the Chicago Blackhawks traded No. 1 goalie Marc-André Fleury at the 2022 NHL Deadline and decided not to re-sign Kevin Lankinen, the team had a vacancy in net for the upcoming season. As is the case with many positions in the lineup, there was no need to look for any long-term goaltending solutions — they have Rockford starter Arvid Söderblom and NCAA prospect Drew Commesso still developing for that. So, a few placeholders were needed — and acquired.

Petr Mrázek

The Blackhawks acquired Mrázek in early July in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and sent along a 2022 second-round pick to receive a first-round pick in return that became defenseman Sam Rinzel. It was a smart move for the Blackhawks to both get a goalie for the season and move up in the draft. Mrazek’s contract has two years left, with the second year allowing the Blackhawks to keep him as a starter in 2023-24 or to be the veteran back up to Söderblom if the latter if ready for the NHL promotion.

Mrázek is coming off a disappointing tenure in Toronto where he posted just a .888 save percentage and 3.34 goals against average in 20 games, being passed by Jack Campbell as starter. It got so bleak for Mrázek that he was placed on waivers in March, though he only played one game with the Toronto Marlies before being recalled because of an injury to Campbell. Unfortunately, Mrázek suffered an injury himself (groin) that would end his frustrating season.

Before his stint in Toronto, Mrázek has been a mostly average goalie throughout his career, both as a starter and backup. Before Toronto, he spent two fairly steady seasons in net with the Carolina Hurricanes, but his third season was marred by injuries in which he only played 12 games.

Interestingly, Mrázek put up his best numbers of his career in that span with a .923 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average. It was always unlikely that he would ever be able to maintain that level of play — he only had one season with a .920 save percentage or better back in 2015-2016 — but his solid previous performances were good enough for most teams.

Obviously for the Blackhawks this season, they’re not looking for a superstar in net as this season is considered mostly a wash. But Mrázek is hoping the opportunity to showcase his skill and get his career back on the right path. His biggest obstacle to that goal would normally be his health — though he’s reportedly optimistic that his offseason training changes will help limit his injuries this season — but really, it’s that he’ll be playing behind a lackluster roster designed to lose.

Alex Stalock

The Blackhawks signed Stalock in July to a one-year, $750,000 contract. Similar to Mrázek, he’s been fairly average throughout his career, albeit with more wide swings between good and poor seasons. He’s spent most of his 10-season NHL career as backup in the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild organizations, but also spent some time in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and Bakersfield Condors.

Also like Mrázek’s most recent seasons, Stalock has been plagued by injury and health issues. Most recently, Stalock missed the entire 2020-21 NHL season after being diagnosed with myocarditis  — an inflammation of the heart muscle — due to complications from COVID-19. It was both a scary and frustrating situation for Stalock.

Prior to the diagnosis, Stalock was coming off a 38-game, .910 save percentage season with the Minnesota Wild in 2019-20.

After being cleared to play again for the 2021-22 season, Stalock appeared in only five-games for the Bakersfield Condors — posting a .862 save percentage 3.81 goals against average — before he was traded to the Sharks organization where he played another 12 games with their AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda. He finished the season with a .872 save percentage and a 4.04 goals against average.

Stalock is another goalie looking at the Blackhawks as an opportunity to salvage his NHL career, although as stated above, the difficulty of that is compounded by the Blackhawks’ roster limitations. Still, it’s great to see Stalock be able to come back from an illness that might have otherwise ended his career.

Arvid Söderblom/Jaxson Stauber

Neither Söderblom nor Stauber will start the season in Chicago, but with the injury and health history of Mrázek and Stalock, it’s very possible that the two Rockford goalies will see time with the Blackhawks this season.

Söderblom is one of the Blackhawks top two goalie prospects and reigning MVP for the Rockford IceHogs. He had a .919 save percentage and 2.76 goals against average in 38 regular season games and finished with a .925 save percentage and 2.99 goals against average in five playoff games. He also set multiple rookie goaltending records: most wins (21), most saves (1,187), best save percentage (.919), most saves in a win (45) against the Texas Stars on October 30th, and most saves in a shutout (36) against the Wolves on Jan. 29th.

Stauber was signed to a two-year, entry-level contract as an NCAA free agent in March after his season with Providence College ended. In his first collegiate season in 2019-20, he had a .916 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average in 23 games as well as being named a Mike Richter Award Finalist. In his last season before signing with the Blackhawks, he improved to a .921 save percentage and 2.10 goals against average with four shutouts in 37 games.