By Thomas Gibbons
The Chicago Blackhawks surrender a goal late in the third period to the Vegas Golden Knights which forced overtime and later fell in a shootout 2-1. The Blackhawks are now 2-2-2 on this home-stand and will conclude their long stay at the United Center on Thursday.
My takeaways from Tuesday night’s loss.
Kirby Dach scored his first NHL goal in the first period.
Dach’s 12 shifts was a team low and his 8:22 of ice time was significantly lower than his debut. Since the 18 year-old is not on any special teams, his ice time suffered. If the Blackhawks want a true evaluation of their first round pick, I’d say get him some time on the power play. And with the Blackhawks failing to convert on the man advantage again Tuesday, new faces on the ice could lead to success.
The Blackhawks can play Dach in nine NHL games before deciding on whether to send him to juniors or burn a year of his entry level deal to stay in the NHL. A lot can change between now and his ninth game, but Dach has not hurt his case so far to be apart of the team’s plans this season.
Robin Lehner made 34 saves Tuesday night, including a ridiculous save in overtime.
Through 3 starts this season, Lehner’s goal against average sits at 1.93. He’s been phenomenal and playing like a starter in the NHL. With a healthy Corey Crawford, this tandem can be one of the best in the NHL. So far this season, Crawford has struggled a bit, allowing 3.58 GAA. Head coach Jeremy Colliton has been switching net minders this entire home stand. I think you have to start playing one on a consistent basis and Lehner has proven he fits the bill. As much as I like Corey Crawford, you have to play the hot hand.
The Blackhawks finally have depth but the stars of the team are struggling. It’s very positive to see the Blackhawks getting steady production from their bottom six. Depth at forward has been a weak point in recent years. The third line of Brandon Saad, David Kampf and Dominik Kubalik has been one of Colliton’s best lines this season. The new fourth line of Alex Nylander, Ryan Carpenter and Drake Caggiula has been a successful grouping as well. Nylander and Caggiula have shown some offensive spark while Carpenter has been dominate at the face-off circle. So when will the top six start doing their part?
The easy answer is to breakup that third line because Jonathan Toews needs play makers on his wings. I have always been for reuniting Toews and Saad. So what about Saad-Toews-Kubalik? It is the best top line the Blackhawks can make while keeping balance to the rest of the lineup. Also, this sets up the second line of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks have gotten success when those three consistently play together. So what would the rest of the forward lines look like?
My favorite defenseman so far this season is Calvin de Haan. He continues to do the little things right and is not afraid to get aggressive. I wanted him last offseason but the Hurricanes picked him up. So when the Blackhawks traded for him, I was excited. They got a defense first player who will block shots and be aggressive in his own zone. He is not going to fill the stat sheet with goals or assists but if you watch his play you will see why the Blackhawks went after him.
Looking ahead: The Blackhawks will host the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday before heading out to Carolina for their first away game since they opened the season in Europe.