It's no secret things are rough for the Blackhawks, who are 12-15-6, right now. They've lost four straight games, been outscored 14-6 in their past three and are last place in the Central Division.
The team reached a new low after blowing a third period three-goal lead in St. Louis Saturday night and falling 4-3 in regulation to the Blues. A brutal turnover in the Hawks' defensive zone from Alex Nylander gave St. Louis their first goal of the game and all the momentum they needed to win. Nylander didn't miss a shift after.
"Okay, that was a mistake," Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of Nylander's egregious error after the game. "But there was a mistake on the entry, there was a mistake on the coverage where we double up.
"If we bench everyone who makes a mistake, we're not going to have any players. So yeah, there's a time and place for that no question, but I think that the real issue is that up and down the lineup we don't do the right things all the time every shift. And again, until that changes, it's hard to win."
If the team's play has reached a level where they're doing the wrong things so consistently that an individual can't be punished with missing a shift, then you might as well throw center Kirby Dach and defenseman Adam Boqvist some more responsibility.
Saturday we learned Dach, 18, would be sticking with the Hawks and not playing in the World Junior Championships and Sunday we learned the same about Boqvist, 19.
Dach, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and Boqvist, selected No. 8 overall in the 2018 draft, have the highest ceilings of all the Hawks' youngsters and look to be the biggest pieces of the franchise's future moving forward.
The Hawks made the decision to burn the first year of Dach's contract earlier this season. If Boqvist plays Sunday night, it'll be his 10th game with Chicago this year, meaning the first year of his contract will be burnt as well. Seeing as he's still with the club and not headed to World Juniors, it's likely to happen sooner rather than later.
As the team struggles, why not see what Dach, a big two-way center can do and give him the reps and situational experience to improve. Have him play 16-17 minutes a night instead of the 13:03 he logged in St. Louis Saturday. The rookie already has five goals and five assists with limited ice time, but what could he have playing with guys like Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews if he got more reps as a top-six forward. He could learn a lot from them as well.
Since the D seems to struggle shift to shift as it is, why not let Boqvist, a puck-moving defenseman with a great shot, hold onto it more and let it rip?
Defenseman Dennis Gilbert, who's only played in 10 games for Chicago the past two seasons, logged 19:03 of ice time in St. Louis to Boqvist's 14:56. Boqvist needs to be out there more. He needs to spend time quarterbacking every power play as he's expected to do for years to come in a Hawks sweater.
Let the kids play. Up their ice time, give them more minutes and let them see tough matchups. At this point, I can't imagine it can hurt the Hawks more than they're already hurting. Building Dach and Boqvist's skillset, comfort and confidence now is building a better future for the Blackhawks.
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