SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Blackhawks have conveniently stashed four of the crucial young members of their future core all in one place:
The second power play unit.
It’s not the most obvious or glamorous showcase for the future of a franchise, but it has been effective in jumpstarting the Hawks’ lackluster overall power play, not to mention its one older member.
Kirby Dach, Alex Nylander, Adam Boqvist and Dominik Kubalik have provided a distinct “Gen Z” flair around Jonathan Toews, who centers the unit.
That group produced the Hawks’ first power play goal in eight games on Saturday against the Kings, then essentially scored again Sunday against the Ducks, with Boqvist ripping his shot just three seconds after a man advantage expired.
“We’re just all kind of hungry,” Dach said Tuesday before the Hawks’ matchup against the Sharks. “I don’t think we really look at it as ‘We’re the future’ like that, but we know what’s happening and what’s going on within the team dynamic.”
The foursome has spent time off the ice throughout this California road trip, too, dressing up for Halloween in Los Angeles and hanging out together again Monday in San Jose.
“We’re all young guys going through the same things, and it’s good, we’re able to learn from each other and what guys have gone through in the past,” Dach added. “Each of us has kind of taken a different route to get here.”
Although they’re all split up — for now — on different lines during normal 5-on-5 play, special teams has proven to be a convenient platform to unite the Hawks’ next generation.
And the front office must be happy to see the chemistry and effectiveness they’ve already developed together. Jeremy Colliton certainly is.
“We’ve got some young players coming in who are extremely promising and getting better and better,” the coach said. “They’re feeling confident they can play in the league and contribute to the team. How we’re going to, in the end, turn this around is that combination of the old guys still getting it done and the young guys taking more and more responsibility.”
Keith handling huge minutes
Even at age 36, Duncan Keith is showing little signs of wearing down, fatigue-wise.
The veteran defenseman has averaged 24:49 of ice time per game entering Tuesday after falling under 24:00 each of the past two seasons. That equates to the 12th-most minutes in the league so far, and he’s at least two years older than all 11 guys ahead of him.
The California trip has been especially taxing. Keith played 28:43 against the Kings and 24:42 against the Ducks, all within a 24-hour time period.
“He looks like he could play the whole game at times out there,” Colliton said. “He’s been excellent. He loves it, too. Everyone says they want to play more, but I think he really seems to thrive off it.”
“Now, can he do it for 82 games? That’s maybe not the best situation.”
No Murphy update yet
NHL-mandated rules for long-term injured reserve mean that Connor Murphy must miss at least five more games before he can be re-activated, so the Hawks have yet to closely monitor his groin recovery situation, Colliton said.
The first opportunity for when he could draw back into the lineup will be Nov. 16 in Nashville.