When the Blackhawks took to the ice on Tuesday for practice, there were only two goaltenders available to dress. After seven weeks of uncertainty about who was going to be available on many nights, we have finally made our way back to square one on the Chicago depth chart in net. Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock are ready to roll — as much as they can be.
Arvid Söderblom being back in Rockford for a period of time is unquestionably best for his development. He did a good job holding the fort while Mrazek and Stalock dealt with their injuries, but his confidence has to be hurting. Playing behind a more competitive team in Rockford will be good for his numbers and his soul.
Now, the Blackhawks hope Stalock can find the groove he found early in the season.
After more than a year away from the NHL, Stalock signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks with hopes of reclaiming an NHL career. He got off to a terrific start to the season, winning three of his first four appearances and posting a .914 save percentage in six October games. But he would face only two shots in November before leaving the ice with no idea when he’d be back.
The last time Stalock appeared in a game for the Blackhawks was Nov. 1 when the New York Islanders visited the United Center. He left that game after 2:56 in the wake of a nasty collision that left him dealing with a concussion for the first time in his career.
The timing of Stalock’s departure was awful for him and the team. He doesn’t score, so we won’t chalk up the Blackhawks’ offense disappearing since the start of November to Stalock’s injury. But his personal game was strong, which was a great sign. And he’d worked his way back from so much, it was especially upsetting.
Stalock, 35, revealed in March of 2021 that he was diagnosed with myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — after testing positive for COVID-19 back in 2020. The Minnesota Wild covered up the issue by calling it an “upper-body” injury for some time out of respect for the situation until Stalock came forward with his diagnosis.
The Edmonton Oilers claimed Stalock off waivers on March 1, 2021 and he was later traded to San Jose for “future considerations” 366 days later. Between the pandemic ending the 2019-20 season and signing with the Blackhawks in July, Stalock appeared in only one NHL game (and 17 AHL games).
To work all the way back to being on an NHL roster and playing well was a huge climb, so to get sidelined for almost two months was tough.
He has been around the rink since suffering the concussion, but he wasn’t activated off IR until Monday. After practice on Tuesday, he told the media he initially thought it would be a five day issue and he’d be back relatively soon, but you can’t guess how a concussion is going to treat you.
While playing football in high school and college, I had a few concussions (a dozen that I can somewhat remember). So when Stalock talked on Tuesday about going through practice and feeling great and then getting home and sitting down and everything goes sideways, I understood the frustration of not knowing when the effects would show up.
Stalock has talked a few times about being close, and now he’s back on the active roster. After practice, head coach Luke Richardson said Stalock might get the start on Friday when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the United Center if everything goes well. I’m hoping Stalock can stay right and get back on the ice in a game because he’s been an engaging personality and fun player to watch this season.