Last season, Blackhawks winger Viktor Stalberg scored eight goals in six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, posting a plus-11 in those games. Four of those goals were game-winners, the most by an NHL player against a single opponent last season. In his other 73 appearances, he had 14 goals and was a minus-5.
Stalberg can't explain it. He's just hoping to continue it tonight in Columbus as the Hawks try to match the best start in franchise history (1971-72) at 5-0.
"I think it's more of a fluke than anything," he said at Saturday's morning skate. "But you get a little more confidence against certain teams and certain goalies. It seems like I had his number last year."
Steve Mason will be in goal tonight for the Blue Jackets, a guy Stalberg had a pair of two-goal games against last year (he also had a hat trick against Curtis Sanford, who's now in Russia's KHL).
"I had a couple of good games against them last year, and hopefully that'll continue and hopefully we can keep winning games," Stalberg said.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has no plans to put Stalberg on every line and double his ice time to take advantage of his mastery of the Blue Jackets. He also called it a "fluky stat," saying sometimes guys are just "charmed or lucky against certain opponents." But Quenneville's been quite pleased with Stalberg's performance so far on the Hawks' third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell -- Quenneville was reluctant to call it a "checking line" -- and his effort as the net-front presence on the power play, a new role this season.
"Viktor's quick off the rush, he's got a dangerous and a sneaky shot, and he got some power play time this year based on how he performed last couple of years," Quenneville said. "He's learning the position and mentality of trying to be that net-front guy on the power play, but I think it 's a work in progress. So far, so good."
NOTE: Corey Crawford will start for the Hawks tonight, the first of back-to-back games. They come home to face the Red Wings Sunday evening.