I was actually fairly nervous for last night’s game. The Blackhawks faced off against the Colorado Avalanche and the league’s highest scoring line, Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen. Plus, the Avalanche have played the Blackhawks really tough over the past few years and the games tended to get pretty physical. If the Blackhawks were to have any chance of winning, they would need strong performances from the defense as well as Collin Delia. This is exactly what the Blackhawks got.

Blackhawks Ride Collin Delia to Their 3rd Straight Win

I’ll go on the record as being a big Collin Delia fan. I’ve been a fan of his since he came on strong for the Rockford IceHogs last season. Delia actually had a really strong showing in the 2018-19 preseason as well.

Although the current Corey Crawford situation is a bummer, it opens the door for the Blackhawks to see what they really have in Collin Delia. Last night, he took full advantage of the situation and had a fantastic season debut. Delia’s strong performance helped the Blackhawks win their 3rd straight game.

Collin Delia not only saved 35 of 36 shots, but he also never looked fazed at any point during the game. Colorado had five power plays tonight and he shut down all five opportunities. Your best penalty killer is your goalie and that was the case for the Blackhawks last night.

Delia didn’t do it all by himself though. The defense showed up and blocked 22 shots. When your defense blocks shots, it sure makes the goalie’s job a lot easier. I’m sure Delia appreciated the extra effort on defense. I know I did.

Improved Defensive Play Is Fueling Blackhawks’ Winning Streak

The winning streak is pretty impressive when you consider the opponents that the Blackhawks have faced. The past three games included wins over three division rivals: Nashville, Dallas, and Colorado. These early season victories over division rivals can end up being pivotal down the stretch when determining playoff seeding.

The winning streak couldn’t have come at a better time too, as the Blackhawks had recently ended an eight-game losing streak. It sure seems like the team is finally buying into what new head coach Jeremy Colliton is preaching.

The Blackhawks’ recent success can be attributed to improved defensive play and contributions from all four lines. A few players have also emerged and made an impact this season. Over the past three games, the most noticeable improvement has been on the defensive end of the ice. Less defensive zone turnovers, more blocked shots, and defensemen have finally been chipping in on offense.

Erik Gustafsson went from being a healthy scratch to becoming one of the more consistent defensemen on the team. In the last ten games, he has been maturing right in front of our eyes. He has a total of ten points (6G, 4A) in the past 10 games which is great for a defenseman. Here’s a detailed breakdown of Gustafsson’s past ten games and it definitely catches your eye.

                               Scor Scor        Scor Goal Goal Goal Goal Assi Assi                                        Assi
Date          G    Tm      Opp    G    A PTS +/- PIM   EV   PP   SH   GW   EV   PP   SH S    S% SHFT   TOI HIT BLK FOW FOL FO%
2018-11-24   24   CHI FLA    W    1    0   1   1   0    1    0    0    1    0    0    0 2  50.0   29 20:22   2   1   0       0
2018-11-27   25   CHI VEG    L    1    0   1   1   0    1    0    0    0    0    0    0 2  50.0   22 20:09   1   3   0       0
2018-11-29   26   CHI WPG    L    0    1   1  -1   0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0       0   23 22:08   2   1   0       0
2018-12-01   27   CHI NSH    L    0    0   0  -2   0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0 1   0.0   28 27:02   1   1   0       0
2018-12-05   28   CHI ANA    L    1    0   1   0   0    1    0    0    0    0    0    0 1 100.0   23 20:39   2   0   0       0
2018-12-06   29   CHI VEG    L    0    0   0  -1   0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0 1   0.0   29 26:05   0   0   0       0
2018-12-09   30   CHI MTL    L    0    1   1   1   0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0 4   0.0   29 21:28   1   2   0       0
2018-12-14   31   CHI WPG L-OT    1    0   1   0   0    1    0    0    0    0    0    0 3  33.3   27 21:34   0   3   0       0
2018-12-16   32   CHI SJS    L    0    1   1  -1   0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0       0   24 18:26   1   0   0       0
2018-12-18   33   CHI NSH    W    1    1   2   0   0    0    1    0    1    1    0    0 2  50.0   23 20:13   1   1   0       0
2018-12-20   34   CHI DAL    W    1    0   1   2   0    0    1    0    0    0    0    0 1 100.0   28 24:21   0   3   0       0

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

The return of Connor Murphy and the emergence of Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom has also provided the Blackhawks’ backend with a much-needed boost. I’m sure the goalies are loving the help as well. Since returning, Murphy has added another dimension to this previously lackluster and almost nonexistent defense.

Connor Murphy’s 2018-19 Season Stats:

                                    Scor        Goal     Assi       Shot                                        Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM EV PP SH GW EV PP SH  S  S% TSA  TOI  ATOI FOW FOL FO% BLK HIT TK GV Awards
2018-19    25 CHI NHL  7 0 2   2   1   6  0  0  0  0  2  0  0 13 0.0  22  136 19:22   0       0   4  19  3         9

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Gustav Forsling has also emerged as a diamond in the rough candidate. Forsling is more of an offensive defenseman at this point in his career, but I believe he has the potential to be a Top 4 defenseman if he can improve his defensive play a bit. Here are Forsling’s 2018-19 season stats:

                                    Scor        Goal     Assi       Shot                                        Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM EV PP SH GW EV PP SH  S  S% TSA  TOI  ATOI FOW FOL FO% BLK HIT TK GV Awards
2018-19    22 CHI NHL 13 2 4   6  -1  10  2  0  0  0  4  0  0 23 8.7  40  258 19:52   0       0  15   9  3        11

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Carl Dahlstrom has also been a pleasant surprise for the defense. Since being called up from the Rockford IceHogs, Dahlstrom has been a solid stay-at-home defenseman. This is something the Blackhawks were desperately missing before his arrival.

                                    Scor        Goal     Assi      Shot                                        Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM EV PP SH GW EV PP SH S  S% TSA  TOI  ATOI FOW FOL FO% BLK HIT TK GV Awards
2018-19    24 CHI NHL  5 0 2   2   2   2  0  0  0  0  2  0  0 7 0.0  13  100 20:03   0       0   4   3  1         5

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

What Does the Future Hold for Collin Delia?

Collin Delia has been gifted a prime opportunity to showcase his talent and prove that he really is the goalie of the future. Delia took full advantage of his opportunity with tonight’s impressive team win over the Avalanche. If it were up to me, I would play Delia as much as possible. He is currently on an expiring contract and the Blackhawks don’t have much to lose at this point. The best way to determine whether or not a young player is worth an extension is to let them play and prove it.

Tonight’s performance shows that Delia can hang with the big boys. I think the win also gives him a great deal of confidence which is essentially priceless in professional sports. As Delia gets more and more ice time while Corey Crawford is out, I believe more and more people will begin to see what I’ve seen for a while now. Collin Delia is the real deal. You will be seeing a lot more of him sooner rather than later, especially with the uncertainty that surrounds Crawford.

The Blackhawks are in good hands, literally, with Collin Delia.

For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author @Certified_TonyG on Twitter.