Blackhawks notebook: Kirby Dach learning to make selfish plays when he should
Dach’s shot share has increased from 17.2% to 22.8% after scoring a beautiful goal Friday and tying his season high for shots Sunday.
Kirby Dach’s goal Friday against the Devils was one of the most encouraging moments of the season for him.
It wasn’t so much because of how he scored — using his defensive awareness and long reach to poke a puck free in the defensive zone, roaring down the wing on the ensuing two-on-one rush with his powerful stride, then showing off great edge control and soft hands to maneuver around the goalie and smoothly tuck the puck in.
It was more because he made the decision to try to score.
So often during the last three seasons, Dach has passed up golden opportunities in favor of passes with low chances of success. On Friday — and much more often in the last month — he took those opportunities.
“I’m making the plays when I want to make them,” he said Saturday. “[I’m] obviously becoming more of a dual threat, both shooting and making plays. It’s something I’ve been improving on and trying to work on each day in practice, so it’s coming along. But I feel like I have confidence in my shot and my ability to score.”
Added interim coach Derek King: “We’re trying to get those guys [to see] you’ve got to shoot there. Dach got it on the two-on-one, and he takes it wide as if he was looking to pass it, and I’m just like, ‘No!’ to myself. All of a sudden, he cut in, and it was a good power-forward kind of goal. So it was good.”
Before Jan. 25, Dach’s shot share — the percentage of Hawks shots during his even-strength ice time that he attempted — was 17.2%. Since then, it’s 22.8%. And Dach’s expected-goals share has risen from 23.3% to 28.7%.
He was one of the more offensively involved Hawks forwards again Sunday against the Blues, tying his season highs with six shots and four shots on goal in the 4-0 loss.
Dach might even be able to take advantage of his reputation as a pass-first player. Devils defenseman Damon Severson, defending that two-on-one, was so convinced Dach would pass that he stood beside Brandon Hagel and gave him a free lane to the net.
The Hawks still don’t have a power-play goal this season from their defensemen, a subtle but worrying statistic.
Seth Jones — who doesn’t have a goal since Dec. 2 — has attempted 43 power-play shots, getting only 21 on goal and neither scoring nor forcing a rebound. Erik Gustafsson has attempted 24 power-play shots, getting 14 on goal and forcing one rebound.
“I’ve got to start shooting the puck more and trying to wrist [pucks] in and create havoc,” Jones said. “We’re around the outside a lot, [making] a lot of seam plays through the middle. We’ve just got to get a couple more pucks to the net, so I can be a part of that, as well.”
After an explosive 3-for-4 showing Friday, the power play as a whole took a massive step back Sunday. The Hawks had only two shots on goal on three opportunities and struggled to get through the neutral zone cleanly against the Blues’ penalty kill.
Jake McCabe returned to the Hawks’ lineup against St. Louis after missing a game with back soreness and played 19:22, but Calvin de Haan (groin) remained out.
Prospect Isaak Phillips was called up for his third career NHL appearance (first since Oct. 30) and played well.