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FEATURE: For Delia, patience is a virtue

Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia is practicing more patience as he continues his personal development between the pipes

by Chris Wescott / blackhawks.com

Cerebral.

That's one word to describe Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia. The way he thinks the game, his intellectual capacity for self-criticism and his overall knowledge of the intricacies of the position are to be admired, especially for a 24 year-old who hasn't even reached the 10-game mark in the NHL yet.

Video: Collin Delia on practice techniques

For example, listening to him explain his approach to rebounds is akin to a painter demonstrating why they chose this particular paint color, brand, or brush size. Or a science teacher showing students how one chemical reacts with another.

"Sometimes, you want rebounds in a specific area," Delia explained to a group of media members after practice on Friday. "So, it's just a matter of where you're going to put it. You have to kind of think ahead of the play. It's kind of a mindset, more so than it is a technical ability… Players are really good in this league, so they're not going to shoot on the ice. They're going to shoot four or five inches off the ice, right above your stick, so it's going to hit your pad.

"So I think the next play is just being ready and knowing where that puck is. Rebounds are inevitable at a certain point, but I think if you can read where the puck is going after, that's where really the control part comes in. Obviously, yeah, if the shot is far enough out, more than like, 15 feet, then yeah you should be able to control it. But once you get into that 10-15 feet and then 10 feet in, you're really just trying to make the first save. And even if it's closer than that, you're just trying to block and fill space."

Elementary, really.

Delia is just six starts into his 2018-19 campaign with Chicago. He's 3-1-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and an outstanding .939 save percentage. He's posting these numbers despite facing roughly 41 shots per game. How is he doing it?

"I think just preparing, you know?" Delia said. "Before the game, I know we might have some breakdowns. My job is to be there and you can't necessarily mitigate the breakdowns, but I can be there to come up big, make a big save here or there, and that happens. There's even been a few times where a couple breakaways have gone in that I think I could save. It's my responsibility to take ownership of my role and I like doing it."

The Blackhawks like him doing it too, albeit they'd like to allow less quantity and quality of shots through to their budding young netminder.

"We're trying to help him prepare as best he can to give us a chance to win every night," said Blackhawks Head Coach Jeremy Colliton. "That's separate from how the team is playing. The team needs to defend hard. We want to give up less shots, we want to decrease the quality of chances against, and that's an ongoing process. We're not thinking 'oh, he plays well when he gets a lot of work.' That's not what we're looking for, but there's no reason he can't keep playing the way he is."

If you ask Delia - wise beyond his years - there's room for improvement. The biggest area, in his mind, isn't a technical issue.

"I just think patience," he said. "I think that's a huge area I want to improve on."

Delia pointed out Wednesday night's overtime loss to Nashville as the perfect example. Filip Forsberg's overtime winner was preventable if the goalie had exercised patience.

"[I was] a little bit too antsy to pull off the post there," he explained. "If I would have stayed on the post and pretty much let him hit me with the puck and not make the first move, players are so skilled in this league that as a goalie, I think if you make the first move, you're toast. I think you have to be a little bit more patient. That's one thing I really want to try and work on, as well as keeping my feet under me a little more, being a little more stable and that will help me be a little more patient."

Talk is talk, but Delia also walks the walk when it comes to improving his game.

"I do like to work on things that I'm not good at," he laughed, "especially after the game if get beat and exposed, I don't want it to happen again. You don't want to make the same mistake twice."

At practice, a day after the loss to Nashville, Delia and Blackhawks Goaltending Coach Jimmy Waite worked on that same play.

"We had [John Hayden] out there," said Delia. "He was coming down the flank on the righthand side, trying to shoot. We really came to the conclusion that it wasn't something that positionally I needed to change, it was just be more patient. Some situations you tend to overthink, but you're really in the right position. You just need to wait a half a second more."

There will be off nights for the young goaltender - which is to be expected - but he has a plan for those outings.

"I think my process is, firstly, to identify that I'm not feeling my best and know that hey, my B-game is still pretty good," he said. "I can elevate my B-game and make it almost like an A-game. I think it's just being truthful to yourself, not trying to mask anything and lie to yourself. Like, 'oh, I'm fighting it today, but I can be better!' Be honest. Be like, 'hey, it's not my best game, but I still have some good things [with my foundation] that I can do. I have good habits.'

"Good habits will protect you, so just rely on your habits if you're not having your best game."

Delia will get his next start in front of the United Center crowd on Saturday night when the Vegas Golden Knights come to town, winners of seven of their last eight games. 

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