Blackhawks

Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

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Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

Ah, here we are, folks, in 2016. It’s a time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future (if you’re into that sort of thing).

For the Blackhawks, they finished 2015 with two victories. They were two interesting, entertaining victories, but they were victories nonetheless. They’ll enjoy a quick respite but, beginning Sunday, the Blackhawks start another busy month, in which they’ll play 14 games in 24 days.

So with this very brief respite upon us, let’s look at Five Thoughts on how the Blackhawks finished 2015 and what awaits them in 2016:

1. Jonathan Toews’ overtime goals. It’s just becoming something you expect: if the Blackhawks head to overtime, you can expect Toews to score the game winner. Toews did it again on Thursday, scoring his league-leading fourth overtime goal. He also set a single-season franchise record for overtime goals. Some may lament Toews not having more goals overall this season but ultimately, you need your captain to come through at clutchtimes. Scoring a bunch of overtime winners fits that description.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Is that third line onto something? Andrew Desjardins, Phillip Danault and Teuvo Teravainen: it may not be an on-paper combination that screams “offense,” but that’s exactly what these three have created lately. Desjardins has three goals in his last two games. Teravainen has three assists in the same two games and Danault has two assists. The Blackhawks wanted to get their supplementary scoring going and these three have gotten that third line involved in the offense.

3. Giving up the goals. There’s always another side, isn’t there? The Blackhawks’ goaltending during most of December was stellar. Corey Crawford, who had three shutouts last month, was a big part of that. But he and Scott Darling gave up eight goals combined against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. Darling told the Sun Times he was feeling alittle rusty – it was just his second start in December and third in a month. Perhaps Crawford was feeling the effects of a busy month. The Blackhawks’ goaltending, overall, has been good this season. There’s no reason to think it won’t return to being stingy soon.

[MORE: How good have the Blackhawks been on the power play on the road?]

4. The Blackhawks’ power play is good. Repeat that, folks, because it’s not something you’ve been able to say the last few years. That power play that was long futile despite the amount of talent is futile no more. It’s third overall in the NHL, converting 23.8 percent of its chances. Now it’s not as good at home (12th, 20 percent), where you could argue the Blackhawks fall into that wait-and-pass-a-lot habit more often. But it’s the league’s best on the road, recording four power-play goals in the past two games.

5. Looking back, then moving forward. The Central Division continues to be an entertaining one that, outside of Dallas, is allowing little breathing room. But the Blackhawks are keeping pace; they finished 2015 in third place with 48 points, two behind St. Louis and two ahead of Minnesota. The Stars lead with 59 points. The Blackhawks won’t head into January thinking, “we have to catch the Stars.” They’ve been here, done this before. It’s not about finishing first; it’s about getting into the playoffs and seeing what happens from there. Certainly, it’s not going to get easier. But the Blackhawks, who went through a lot of changes, two injuries – one current – and a myriad of line changes, are doing fine. 

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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