Arvid Soderblom: Hung Out to Dry

Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks
Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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On New Year's Day 2022, Arvid Soderblom got his first call to the crease to start the second period. It was not an ideal situation; the Blackhawks were being severely outplayed by the Nashville Predators. Starting goaltender Collin Delia was pulled following the first period after conceding his third goal of the game on just his seventh shot. 

For every goaltender, the first time you step in goal should be a moment you can cherish. Unfortunately for Soderblom, he only had 28 seconds to soak in this moment, as Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot was left uncovered in the slot, allowing him to easily put home the Predator’s fourth goal of the game.

Soderblom would go on to allow two more goals that game, and record 15 saves for a .833 save percentage in the 6-1 loss.

The next two games for the young Swede were somehow worse. 

To reward Soderblom for his performance against Nashville, he was given the call to start the Blackhawks’ next game against the Calgary Flames. Soderblom faced 41 shots in just his second NHL game, only allowing four goals. 

Soderblom wouldn’t see the ice again until a month later, when he was peppered with 36 shots from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Only managing to stop 30 of those shots, Soderblom would record his second loss as the Blackhawks fell to the Blue Jackets, 7-4.

This loss would be his last game of the 2021-22 season.

In the 2022 offseason, Chicago would acquire goaltenders Alex Stalock and Petr Mrazek, making it unlikely that Soderblom would receive much playing time. 

That was until Mrazek went down with a groin injury in late October. In need of a goalie to fill the vacant spot, Soderblom was called to back-up Alex Stalock. 

On October 29th, Soderblom would start his first game of the 2022-23 season against the Buffalo Sabres. Though the Hawks lost in overtime, Soderblom saved an astounding 41 shots, beginning to prove that he can compete at the NHL level. 

A few days later, Stalock–the starter at the time–was ruled out with a concussion. With both veteran goalies unavailable, Soderblom was forced into the starting role.  

In his first game as the Hawks’ interim No. 1 goaltender, Soderblom stopped 28 of 30 shots in a loss to the New York Islanders. This loss would mark Chicago’s fourth straight loss; the losing streak came immediately after the Hawks finished a four game winning streak.

On November 3rd, Soderblom would start his second straight game for the first time in his career. In an incredible 32-save effort, Soderblom would record his first career NHL win over the Los Angeles Kings.

In his third straight start, Soderblom left the game after the second period due to a dehydration issue. Dylan Wells would finish off the 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in his first-ever NHL appearance. Soderblom would return to practice on November 8th with no concerns of an injury. 

Facing 132 shots in the span of one week is difficult for many goaltenders, let alone a 23 year old. Luckily for Soderblom, Mrazek would return on November 7th, providing some relief for the young goalie.

A week after leaving the game against Winnipeg, he started against the Anaheim Ducks and posted a 39-save win. 

It seems that in order for Soderblom to win a game, he has to pull all the weight; in his two wins this season, the Blackhawks have scored two and three goals while Soderblom has had to make 32 and 39 saves, respectively. 

The amount of stress placed on such a young goaltender can be concerning. Is Soderblom going to burn out? He’s only 23 years old, and has already played in half of the team’s games this season.

For comparison, at 23, Corey Crawford started in just three games. He didn’t get his starting role until 2010-11, when he was 26. 

Although, a handful of great goalies–like Marc-Andre Fleury, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Carey Price–earned the starting position at a relatively young age.

Not comparing Soderblom to the greats, however, he has been getting a lot of ice time for a first year goaltender.

An example of a similar situation would be Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen earned the starting role for the Blackhawks in the 2021 season when he was 25 years old. Lankinen had no prior NHL experience, yet played 37 out of Chicago’s 56 games that season. Though Lankinen started the season well, he eventually started to regress in the second half of the season, putting up sub-par goaltending numbers.

Unlike Lankinen, Soderblom’s statistics never had this period of glory. Nonetheless, similar to Lankinen’s situation, Soderblom’s support is minimal as the Blackhawks are one of the worst teams in the league. 

Though the strenuous amount of playing time Soderblom has received can be seen as detrimental, his performance is surely beginning to improve. The amount of high-danger opportunities that Soderblom has had to shut down is impressive, especially for someone at his age. 

Recently, Seth Jones praised Soderblom’s outstanding effort. Blackhawk’s insider Charlie Roumeliotis tweeted Jones’s statement:

Hopefully, he will continue to develop into a certified starter at some point, and not succumb to the beatings he faces night after night as the Hawks’ goaltender. 

Throughout the year, expect Soderblom to receive more playing time as Mrazek and Stalock will likely continue to face injuries–given their history.

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