Blackhawks News & Rumors: Domi, Mrázek, Stalock, Richardson

This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumors highlights storylines far more appealing than what the Chicago Blackhawks chose to release as their Reverse Retro 2.0, with the club looking to continue riding the surprising momentum gained through a solid start to the season.

Domi Becoming a Dominant Blackhawk

One of the bigger offseason signings in Chicago this past summer, Max Domi was quick to express his enthusiasm in deciding to join the historic franchise. Having suited up for three different organizations over the past four years, as his stats regressed throughout, it’s safe to say this was a welcomed opportunity at a fresh start for the forward.

“It’s one of my favorite teams growing up, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are two of my favorite guys growing up. You look at probably the best American-born player of all time already and then you have Jonny Toews. As a Canadian boy, it’s like him and Sid were the two guys you looked up to, so a chance to play with those two guys, wear that jersey and to play for Luke were the biggest reasons why I chose Chicago. I’m super happy with my decision and I just can’t wait to get started.”

Already saying all the right things heading into the 2022-23 campaign, Domi started the season off with a bang by scoring in his debut with the Blackhawks. Then again, it’s hard to avoid the scoresheet when you’re on the same line as Patrick Kane.

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However, Domi’s impact has already stretched beyond the confines of how his teammates complement his game. The centreman is dominating at the dot, currently riding a faceoff percentage (FO%) of 63.6. Meaning, he’s helping ensure Kane has as much possession as possible, which is always a positive for Chicago.

More impressive is that Domi appears ready to step up in the biggest moments for the Blackhawks. As evidenced by his game-winner in overtime of Chicago’s home opener.

If the 27-year-old can continue to build upon the impression he’s already making in Chicago, it won’t only prove that he was well worth the $3 million cap hit this year but it will also set him up for a much easier negotiation when it comes to his next contract.

Mrázek & Stalock Surprising Skeptics

Safe to say, not much was expected out of the Blackhawks’ new tandem of Petr Mrázek and Alex Stalock this season. It’s not that the veteran netminders haven’t earned the respect of onlookers over their careers, but both have seen their stats decline of late. Besides, it seemed more like they were acquired to fill voids rather than act as difference-makers in Chicago.

Petr Mrazek, Chicago Blackhawks
Petr Mrazek, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Clearly, the duo set out to surprise Chicago’s supporters as they’ve been instrumental in helping their new club achieve a 2-2-0 record early on in the campaign. While it’s still too soon to anticipate that any initial trends will maintain, a rebuild riding a .500 record — following back-to-back wins, at that — is worthy of recognition.

While the pair have accumulated impressive cumulative metrics with a .913 save percentage (SV%) and 2.75 goals-against average (GAA), it’s been their No. 2 that has stood the tallest early on. Stalock’s hot start includes a .979 SV% and 0.75 GAA.

What’s more, answering the call when Chicago’s No. 1 went down with an injury during the second period of their home opener further solidified Stalock’s case as being a reliable go-to option for the Blackhawks the rest of the way.

Outside of it being reported that Mrázek suffered a groin injury and missed team practice the following day, there’s not much known regarding his timeline at the moment. However, what we do know is that Stalock is now poised to be their starter for the time being, with Arvid Söderblom being called up from the Rockford IceHogs to round out Chicago’s roster.

Whether Stalock or Söderblom can do enough to earn more ice time than initially anticipated is yet to be seen, but they certainly have an opportunity to make their case while Mrázek’s out.

Richardson Setting the Tone in Chicago

When the Blackhawks hired Luke Richardson as their new head coach, he appeared to be the perfect choice for Chicago’s current roster. Known for his ability to motivate and develop, leveraging his perspective to propel Chicago’s rebuild seemed like a logical plan.

Luke Richardson, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens
Luke Richardson, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

Earning his first win as Chicago’s new bench boss in only his third game there and then following that up with helping them capture their home opener, Richardson has seemingly made this Blackhawks team far more relevant than most expected they could be. That said, it’s far too early in the season to stand by any blanket statements.

What seems far more certain, though, is that Richardson’s coaching style will surely work to get the best out of this impressionable lineup.

It’s not an easy feat to accomplish what is expected of a coach in today’s NHL. Yet, prioritizing a respectful and personable approach is sure to work to Richardson’s advantage when it comes to earning fans in his locker room. Let alone that such a strategy will encourage more progressive results for the club itself.

RELATED: 3 Blackhawks Off to Surprisingly Hot Starts in 2022-23

Regardless of Chicago’s record by season’s end, if Richardon’s influence has made them better — individually and as a collective — then he’s done his job. All signs point to the fact that he’s already well on his way to a successful result in that respect.