Blackhawks notebook: Kirby Dach translating strong training camp into playoff success
The Hawks out-chanced the Oilers 24-22 and outscored them 4-1 with Dach on the ice in the qualifying-round series.
On Dec. 29 of this season, rookie center Kirby Dach played 20 minutes, 32 seconds in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout victory against the Blue Jackets.
Heading into his first playoff run this summer, that was the most ice time Dach had seen in an NHL game.
And then in Game 3 on Wednesday against the Oilers in Edmonton, coach Jeremy Colliton united Dach with wings Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat and sent them out for shift after shift after shift.
Dach ended up leading all Hawks forwards with a whopping 23 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time, shattering his previous high from that game against the Blue Jackets. He followed that up with 19 minutes, 24 seconds Friday.
‘‘We just thought Kirby and Alex were really good in Game 2, and we’re just trying to be flexible with our lines and play the guys who are going more,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘It’s an opportunity to give those two more ice time, and they deserve it. They played really well.’’
Dach’s production and on-ice impact has risen in proportion to his playing time and the trust he has received from the coaching staff.
He notched four points — all assists — in the qualifying-round series, becoming the first Hawks rookie since Eddie Olczyk in 1985 to get at least a point in each of his first three postseason appearances. Moreover, the Hawks out-chanced the Oilers 24-22 and outscored them 4-1 with Dach on the ice.
‘‘You could see all season long how they developed and just got better as the year went on,’’ wing Brandon Saad said recently about Dach and rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist.
Dach also got his first NHL penalty-killing experience in the series. And while the penalty kill struggled against the Oilers’ stacked power play, Dach’s inclusion on it represents the next step in his development as a two-way center.
‘‘He got better as the year went on, he loves responsibility and he thrives on it,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He’s been great. He’s been as advertised.’’
NHL using ‘thicker’ ice
Wing Alex Chiasson offered an interesting observation during the Oilers’ media availability Thursday, commenting on the ice conditions at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
‘‘They’ve had to make it a little bit thicker to make sure the ice is good for all days,’’ Chiasson told reporters. ‘‘Obviously, when you get to the third game, it’s a little more snowy and bouncy, but that goes for both teams. I think they have done a good job with the ice.’’
The ice conditions have been a frequent talking point, considering Rogers Place and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto normally wouldn’t host more than a game a day — generally with a day or more in between — but now are hosting three a day every day.
Games 2 and 3 of the Hawks-Oilers series were the final games played at Rogers Place on their respective days. Game 4 was the second of three.
The rate of games per day might be a little lighter in the next round.