As the Blackhawks Keep Losing, Arvid Söderblom Keeps Perspective on the Big Picture

As this Blackhawks’ season has continued to slide in the wrong (or necessary? depending on your perspective) direction, there’s one young player who has held my attention more times than not. How — and why — he’s still skating in Chicago was predictable (Tab called it before the season began), but how he’s performed has been admirable.

As the losses continue to mount, how he responds to the struggles of the team around him are something that I’ve been even more interested to watch.

When the 2022-23 Blackhawks roster was constructed, the plan was never for Arvid Söderblom to play as prominent a role as he has in the first 28 games of the season. Despite Söderblom being the only goaltender under contract when the 2021-22 season came to an end, the Blackhawks plan was made clear when they traded for Petr Mrazek and signed Alex Stalock this summer.

Kyle Davidson’s promise in April to commit to prospect development more than his successor was reaffirmed by the additions of the two veteran netminders. Mrazek was acquired on draft night from Toronto and figured to be the primary goaltender for the Blackhawks with Stalock — who signed later — the apparent backup. The Blackhawks’ plan was for Söderblom to spend the bulk — if not all — of the season in Rockford polishing his game.

After all, Söderblom didn’t look NHL ready in his limited looks last season, allowing 5.01 goals per game in a trio of emergency appearances in Chicago, beginning with the New Year’s Day disaster in Nashville in which Söderblom allowed three goals on 18 shots in relief. In his two starts with the Blackhawks Söderblom allowed four goals against Calgary the next day and then six in February against the Blue Jackets before he was reassigned to Rockford for the remainder of the season.

Such is life, injuries happened, and Söderblom was back with the Blackhawks before Halloween. And, for what it’s worth, when the Blackhawks were hot to open the season and playing a better brand of defense in front of the young netminder, Söderblom looked pretty good. After allowing four goals on 45 shots in Buffalo Söderblom allowed just three in two games against the Islanders and Kings on the ensuing home stand.

All told, Söderblom was 2-2-1 with a .931 save percentage through the victory over Anaheim on November 12. As the Blackhawks early season shine begun to wear off, the 23-year-old goaltender was heralded as one of the bright spots in the first leg of the season and potentially a development win for the Blackhawks.

As the wheels on the Blackhawks’ fun start have come barreling off and into oncoming traffic causing a gawker-worthy car wreck, Söderblom’s numbers have followed. Still, I think it’s important to remember a few things when it comes to the evaluation of Söderblom’s performance this season. He’s a rookie, and he’s got plenty of room to grown, and more importantly, the team in front of him has stunk it up for the last six weeks (at least). Take last night’s loss to Vegas for example.

Despite losing each of his last eight starts in net, Söderblom feels like he’s where he belongs right now.

“Personally, I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Söderblom said on Thursday. “I’ve been doing my thing. Most of the games that I’ve played I’ve given the team a chance [to win]. It obviously sucks to lose and there’s always stuff you can do better as a team and personally. I wasn’t supposed to be up here this long, but I’ve taken the chances that I’ve gotten and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job.”

Contrary to the picture that the box score might paint, he’s right. He has taken advantage of his chance this season, and he’s given the Blackhawks more chances to win with him in net than not. Thursday night’s loss to the Golden Knights was a perfect example.

One thing you’ll notice from Söderblom is that he doesn’t change his style, and seldomly does he let the play in front of him change his demeanor or confidence, something Luke Richardson praised after last night’s loss to Vegas.

“I don’t think so. I don’t see him straying from his style,” Richardson said. “I think if a goalie starts getting off of his style and scrambling a little bit too much; I think he’s pretty solid, pretty compact. There’s not a lot of rebounds and when there is he’s kind of right there. So, to me, I watch his demeanor and his face, and he doesn’t change.”

I know the plan was for Söderblom to marinate more in Rockford this season, but the rookie goaltender has been a consistent source of enjoyment and optimism in an otherwise expectedly rough on-ice product at 1901 W. Madison St.

Eventually, in theory, both Mrazek and Stalock will be healthy at the same time and the Blackhawks will have a decision to make. You’ll have a tough time convincing Söderblom that he doesn’t deserve to be in Chicago. Heck, you might even have a tough time convincing fellow goaltender Stalock.

“Every game, he gives a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask for, right? Mature he’s very mature beyond what his age might say on paper. It’s good to see,” Stalock said about Soderblom last week. “It’s a strong play, and I think the guys get confident knowing that he’s going to make that save – that initial save – and it’s been great.”

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes those things work out for the best. This might be one of those times.

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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