Zawaski: Observations From Hawks' Loss To Capitals

Rookie Kirby Dach was impressive in his NHL debut.

Jay Zawaski
October 21, 2019 - 11:45 am

(670 The Score) As the Bears game grew more and more embarrassing Sunday night, it’s a safe bet that some of Chicago turned its attention to the Blackhawks and the debut of rookie forward Kirby Dach. While the Hawks didn’t come away with a win, they had one of their better overall performances of the season. Here are my takeaways from their 5-3 loss to the Capitals at the United Center.

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Dach debuts

The 18-year-old Dach was among the Blackhawks' starters when the puck dropped Sunday. He was centering a line with Dylan Strome on his left wing and Patrick Kane on his right. As the game went on, he shifted to left wing. While Dach failed to record a point, there were some nice moments that put his tools on display. In the first period, he won the puck along the board and quickly spun out of traffic, setting up Kane in front of the net.

Dach also made a number of impressive defensive plays. His overall game is sound. I was encouraged by his debut. Now that it’s out of the way, he can get past the nerves and just play his game. 

Nylander getting the message

Perhaps I’m overly focused on winger Alex Nylander’s play this season, but when general manager Stan Bowman traded top defensive prospect (at the time) Henri Jokiharju to acquire Nylander in July, the spotlight seems necessary. Nylander scored the Blackhawks' first goal of the season in Prague but followed up that game with a dud against the Sharks. Coach Jeremy Colliton scratched him the next game. Since then, Nylander has responded with three solid games in a row.

On Sunday, his ice time climbed to 13:12. He picked up a pair of assists and was even trusted with some late crunch-time shifts. Nylander is tied for second on the team in scoring with four points in five games. The question all along has been Nylander’s commitment in all zones. Over his last three games, he’s done almost everything right. 

Kubalik’s big night

Third-line winger Dominik Kubalik scored his second goal of the season. He also had 10 shots on goal and 14 shot attempts in the game. Along with linemates Brandon Saad and David Kampf, Kubalik has been driving possession all season -- and Sunday was his best game. At five-on-five, he had a team-best 73.53 Corsi percentage.

The Hawks had 25 shot attempts while Kubalik was on the ice and only allowed nine against. I’d like to see Kubalik get some time on the top power-play unit. He has a great shot and while he plays right wing like Kane, Kane has the flexibility to play on the other side and set up Kubalik for a one-timer. That worked out pretty well with Artemi Panarin, didn’t it? 

Shaw gonna Shaw

Andrew Shaw took another offensive zone penalty Sunday. It took the Capitals all of eight seconds to score on their opportunity. Here’s the thing: I actually really like what he’s brought to the team ... aside from the nightly offensive or neutral-zone penalty! 

The Hawks' penalty kill is bad, rating as the third-worst in the NHL at 66 percent.  They don’t need any extra time short-handed. 

Power play needs results

John Dietz of the Daily Herald tweeted this stat Monday.

The Hawks are 1-for-12 on the power play over their last three games despite 25 shots on goal in 22 minutes of power-play time. They’re getting solid looks but not converting. Expect that to change. 

Goalie roller coaster 

It feels like every time I’m critical of goalie Corey Crawford, he responds with a great game, so let’s see if it works again. I believe it’s fairly obvious that Robin Lehner is the better goalie right now and should get the bulk of starts. I think Crawford was fine Sunday, but he also wasn’t great. He has been slow post-to-post, and he has mishandled pucks. If Lehner is better, he should get the bulk of the starts.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to noon, a columnist for 670 The Score and the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. He's also the host of Locked on Blackhawks and the I'm Fat Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​