The Blackhawks dropped their third straight game in a 5-2 loss to the Coyotes on Thursday at Gila River Arena. Chicago is 2-3-1 in December.
1. Kirby Dach had a noticeably solid game.
One of the most memorable moments of the game was in the second period when Dach hustled on the backcheck, stripped the puck from the Coyotes’ forward after they crossed the blue line, made a few strong cross overs and gained tons of speed through the neutral zone. Nick Schmaltz tried to poke the puck away near the offensive zone blue line, but Dach made a nifty move to enter the zone and then smoothly toe dragged to get a shot through a defender’s legs.
It was one of those “wow” moments when you think this is just the beginning of Dach’s developmental curve at the NHL level and he still has so much more time and room to get stronger and expand his skillset.
Throughout the game Dach was strong on the puck, won puck battles, forechecked hard and didn’t shy away from contact. He collected two individual high danger chances and a drawn penalty in 11:31 minutes at 5-on-5. Dach was one of the best looking forwards for the Blackhawks and he deserves more ice time. Toss him in the top 9, give him more power play time. See what he can do. What’s the downside? If he is the future face of this franchise, why not give him a chance to prove he’s legit instead of sheltering him in a bottom six role where he’s only averaged 11:01 minutes in his last five games.
2. Way too many odd man rushes and scoring chances against.
Jonathan Toews: "You can’t rely on your goaltenders to make miraculous saves every single night, even though they pretty much do."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 13, 2019
Arizona dominated Chicago in scoring chances and without Robin Lehner making a few “miraculous” saves, the score would have been even more lopsided. At 5-on-5, the Coyotes had a 25-to-15 scoring chance and a 15-to-6 high-danger scoring chance advantage, per Natural Stat Trick. Either three of the Blackhawks got stuck below the faceoff dot in the offensive zone and gave the Coyotes’ easy zone exits and odd man rushes or Chicago was running around in their defensive zone puck watching giving Arizona wide open looks on Lehner.
It’s not fair to Corey Crawford and Lehner that they are expected to make highlight reel saves every period and face 35-plus shots nearly every game. Where did the effort that we saw in the first two periods against the Bruins go? Where did that five-man structure in the 3-0 shutout against Dallas go? Consistency has been an issue all season and if Chicago can’t come together as a team and commit to style of play that everyone is on board with, the season will rapidly spiral out of control before we hit Christmas.
3. The power play has scored in five straight games.
If you’re looking for something positive to focus on, at least the Blackhawks power play is starting to click. In their last five games, Chicago has converted 5-of-14 opportunities on the man advantage, which is good for a 35.7-percent success rate. Although Alex DeBrincat didn’t score on this cross-slot pass from Patrick Kane, it’s a nice example of how dangerous the top unit can be:
Later in the third period, the top unit once again showed some promise. Jonathan Toews was able to slip the puck into the corner and DeBrincat won a foot race to slap the puck over to Dylan Strome behind the net. Eventually the puck returned to DeBrincat on the left circle and instead of trying to force a perfect pass, DeBrincat fired the puck on net and Strome dove to smack the rebound past Darcy Kuemper:
St. Louis is eighth in the NHL with a 84.0-percent success rate shorthanded, so converting on the power play for a sixth game in a row is going to be a challenge and a storyline to follow on Saturday.
Last season the Blackhawks used a month long stretch of power play dominance to get back into the playoff bubble. Let’s see if they can do it again.
Advanced stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Charting Hockey, Hockey-Reference, Evolving Hockey and Corsica-Hockey