1. Kirby Dach looked... fine
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton did not ease Kirby Dach into his NHL debut. The 18-year-old Dach was put alongside Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome on the team’s starting line against the Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Dach won the opening faceoff and away he went with his first NHL game.
Dach lost his next four faceoffs and Strome won 5-of-7. Dach had one shot attempt (a miss), drew a high sticking penalty, took four hits and blocked a shot in 13:40 minutes across 17 shifts. The Strome, Dach, Kane line logged a 47.06 Corsi-For percentage, 33.33 shots-for percentage and 45.43 expected goals-for percentage, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Dach’s best play came on his third shift when he won the puck behind the net against Dmitry Orlov, spun away from him and found Kane in the slot for a scoring chance.
Dach shows off some skill on his third shift. pic.twitter.com/jpTJqglCWB— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 20, 2019
Dach’s biggest misstep came on Ovechkin’s goal in the third period when he gave the Russian too much space to set up at the left faceoff circle for a one-timer. The goal probably doesn’t come if Connor Murphy is a step quicker earlier in the sequence and gets to the puck behind the net before it rims around the boards to Ovechkin.
Dach played a bit more cautious than in his three-game AHL stint and dealt with physicality better than he did with the IceHogs. He didn’t look completely lost nor did look like he didn’t belong. The Blackhawks have eight more games to decide whether he stays in the NHL and use the first year of his contract or send him back to Saskatoon in the WHL.
2. Special team woes
The Blackhawks allowed a power play goal and a shorthanded goal while going 0-for-5 on the power play, which included a four-minute double minor from Chandler Stephenson’s high stick on Dach that drew blood. Chicago used its first power-play unit for the entire time on the first man advantage then used the second unit sparingly during the next four. The Capitals’ power play goal came on Andrew Shaw’s sixth penalty in as many games. He needs to cut that out.
Colliton might be better off trying to switch Strome and Andrew Shaw for the latter to provide a net-front presence on the first unit while the former gives the second unit another playmaker over Brent Seabrook. Seabrook’s shot isn’t reason enough to give him power play time anymore. It’s also time to give Alex Nylander an opportunity on the second unit.
3. Noticeable Nylander
Nylander is being harshly evaluated by the Blackhawks fanbase due to the Blackhawks trading another first rounder in Henri Jokiharju for him. And while there have been certain moments to Nylander’s early start (two goals, two assists in five games) that have left people wanting more, he certainly has shown that offensive upside despite being sheltered in a fourth line role.
Nylander had two primary assists against the Washington that showed his vision and hockey sense. The first was a no-look backhand pass to Drake Caggiula then he jumped between Orlov and Brendan Leipsic to intercept Lars Eller’s pass that led to a breakaway with Kane for a goal.
Colliton will probably tinker with forward lines again and Nylander should be elevated from the fourth line to work with other playmakers to bring out his skill more.