1. Kirby Dach is settling in.
Dach still has tweaks to make to be a more complete player at the NHL level; however, against the Flyers, Dach’s performance was one of the few bright spots.
At 5-on-5, Dach played 14:09 minutes, had a Corsi-For of 64.7-percent, collected an assist on Brandon Saad’s third period goal after winning a puck battle in the neutral zone and was on the ice for five scoring chances for and four against.
Additionally, there were impressive moments that won’t end up in Dach’s boxscore or advanced stats:
- Pulled off an extremely smooth toe drag in the first period to get around a Flyers defenseman for an offensive zone entry.
- In the second period, he started a 3-on-2 rush with a burst of speed and slick move out of the defensive zone, passed it to Patrick Kane and then drove hard to the net through two Flyers’ defenseman. That opened up space for Kane to hit Duncan Keith at the top of the slot. Shortly after, the Flyers ended up on their own 3-on-2 rush. Dach backchecked hard to break up the pass and neutralized the threat.
Been re-watching last night's Blackhawks' game. This play from Dach stood out. He's building confidence. He probably quickly gives up the puck a few days ago, but now he holds onto it vs. pressure, carries it out, brings it through the middle and helps create a great chance. pic.twitter.com/QIz6xrBvsI— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 25, 2019
- There were at least four times when Dach won a puck battle on the boards in the offensive and neutral zone. He has showed off an impressive ability to escape out of scrums with the puck using a hip swivel fake out and sturdy puck protection skills.
Game by game Dach is progressing and showcasing why general manager Stan Bowman selected him No. 3 overall at the NHL draft.
2. Dylan Strome’s ice time is getting cut.
Recently, Strome’s ice time has been drastically reduced by Jeremy Colliton. He’s averaged 9:50 minutes the past two games after averaging 17:45 minutes in the first six games of the season.
One of the reasons for this reduction in ice time could be Strome’s below-average offensive production. Over a four game stretch, Strome has mustered one assist, six shots and a minus-one rating, while playing the majority of his shifts with Kane and Dach.
In the second period against the Flyers, Colliton bumped Strome up to the top line with Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews hoping for an offensive spark. In six shifts, they fired two shots on goal and had a 62.5 Corsi-For rate.
Putting Strome back with DeBrincat rekindles an uncanny chemistry the two have developed since their junior hockey days with the Eerie Otters. Hopefully, they stay together against Carolina and help awake Chicago’s offense from a deep slumber.
3. Alexander Nylander is changing my opinion.
There was a stigma surrounding Nylander in Buffalo that followed him to Chicago suggesting he lacked a motor and desire to consistently hustle. Seven games into his tenure with the Blackhawks, Nylander has quieted the doubters.
Whether it’s with the fourth line, a shift with the top 9 or on the power play, he is noticeably grinding on the forecheck, backcheck and making himself an option to receive passes. When he does get the puck, Nylander has made patient, confident plays more often than not.
For instance, on rushes into the offensive zone he has refrained from forcing a pass through a maze of defenders. When there isn't a lane to the net, he makes a tight, powerful turn protecting the puck and either starts a cycle or finds a Blackhawks defenseman sneaking into the zone for a shot from the high slot.
At the start of the season, Nylander was in a competition with Brendan Perlini for ice time. As November approaches, Nylander has clearly won the lineup spot, which has led to general manager Stan Bowman placing Perlini on the trading block, per TSN insider Bob McKenzie.
With Dach and Nylander progressing at this rate, the future of the Blackhawks’ forward group is promising.