The Blackhawks fell to the Washington Capitals Sunday night, losing 5-3 in what would be Kirby Dach’s NHL debut.
Dach was selected 3rd overall by Chicago in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He was the highest selection by Chicago since Patrick Kane, who went 1st overall in 2007. The last time the Blackhawks selected 3rd overall before Dach was captain Jonathan Toews in 2006.
A big-bodied center with a solid two-way game, elite vision, and excellent play-making ability, Dach is expected to be the future top-line center for Chicago. In his very first NHL game, he was slotted on the second line between Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane.
Understandably, Dach played it safe – but solid – in his first game. Although pointless, he generated a strong scoring chance in the first period, utilizing his size in the corner against Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov to set up Kane.
In 13:41 minutes of ice time, Dach went 1-for-5 in the faceoff circle and finished with a -1, which came on a scorching Alex Ovechkin one-timer. Dach was a bit slow to react on the play, but then again, few forwards would have fared better against the world-class goal scorer in Ovechkin.
“[Kirby’s] pretty raw, but for his first game against, one of the better teams in the league, I thought he was noticeable, had some good shifts,” Kane said. “There’s some chemistry to be built there, so I think we can even be better.”
The second biggest story of the night would be the Blackhawks’ special-teams woes.
In a 1-1 tie midway through the 2nd, Kirby Dach would draw a double-minor high-sticking penalty on Washington’s Chandler Stephenson. Washington would not only kill the entire four-minute penalty, but also regain the lead by scoring a shorthanded goal just 28 seconds into the Hawks’ man advantage. It was the turning point in the game.
Trailing 3-1, Drake Caggiula and Patrick Kane would make it interesting by tying the game midway through the 3rd, only for Capitals forward Tom Wilson to regain the lead. The Capitals would seal the win with an empty net goal by Lars Eller, dropping the Hawks to a 2-3-1 record overall.
Brandon Saad, David Kampf, and Dominik Kubalik continue to be the hottest line for the Blackhawks. Kubalik would score his second goal of the year on a dominant shift that saw all three figuring heavily on the tally.
Alexander Nylander also continued his stretch of solid play with a beautiful read, stealing Lars Eller’s pass to set up Patrick Kane’s equalizer. Although demoted to the 4th line, Nylander has warranted his spot in the lineup and was paired nicely with Ryan Carpenter. Noticeably quiet were Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and Alex Debrincat. With two games remaining, the Hawks are now 2-2-1 on their current 7-game home stretch. With the Vegas Golden Knights on the 22nd and the Philadelphia Flyers on the 24th, these next two games will be critical in salvaging this home stay.