Blackhawks notebook: Kirby Dach’s strong season with Canadiens fueled by steady confidence

Thanks to Dach’s mental maturation and the Canadiens’ trust in him, he’s the team’s leading scorer since New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews remains away from the Blackhawks and Alex Stalock isn’t concussed.

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Kirby Dach skates with the puck.

Former Blackhawks center Kirby Dach is the Canadiens’ leading scorer since New Year’s Day.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

MONTREAL — After scoring the dramatic shootout winner in the Canadiens’ visit to Chicago the day after Thanksgiving, Kirby Dach cooled off in December.

During his three-year tenure with the Blackhawks, a tougher month might have dented Dach’s sometimes-fragile confidence. In Montreal, however, he has matured not only physically but also mentally, so that didn’t happen.

Dach quickly bounced back and entered the Hawks-Canadiens rematch Tuesday as his team’s leading scorer since New Year’s Day, with seven goals and 12 points in his last 16 games. He’s on pace for a 54-point season after topping out at 26 last season.

‘‘I don’t think I’ve really changed anything in my game,’’ said Dach, whom the Hawks drafted third overall in 2019. ‘‘I just continue to stay on the path and not focus on the results, more on the process, and not get frustrated if things aren’t going right the way.’’

Of course, Dach — who turned 22 in January — is receiving more opportunities to succeed with the Canadiens, too.

It’s hardly a secret that former Hawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton rushed Dach to the NHL prematurely, then didn’t give him a long-enough leash to find his footing once he got there. Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis hasn’t made those same mistakes, giving Dach an average of 19 minutes, 17 seconds of ice time since Nov. 12.

‘‘When you’re getting to play more minutes and the coach trusts you, you have more fun,’’ Dach said. ‘‘I want to say I’m the same player that I was [in Chicago], but obviously there’s differences. I have more confidence, and I’m playing better and producing.’’

Toews remains absent

Captain Jonathan Toews’ situation hasn’t changed much since he recovered enough from his unspecified illness to start working out in the gym Thursday.

Toews remains in Chicago — away from the Hawks — and, as of Monday, still was working out with assistant strength-and-conditioning coach Patrick Becker. Coach Luke Richardson said the plan was for Toews to skate Tuesday, but he wasn’t sure whether that happened.

On Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, Toews will miss his fifth consecutive game and seventh overall because of illness since the start of December. It’s possible he could fly in and join the Hawks for their game Friday against the Senators, but that seems unlikely.

Stalock not concussed

Doctors have determined goalie Alex Stalock, who has missed 11 consecutive games since an accidental collision in practice Jan. 16, didn’t suffer his second concussion of the season.

Instead, Stalock has a ‘‘cranial thing that affects his eyesight and tracking,’’ Richardson said.

That sounds concerning in its own right, but it’s apparently a preferable diagnosis.

‘‘When they ruled out a concussion, that took some worry out of his mind, and he was more back to his [usual] personality in the dressing room,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘Unfortunately, we’re missing him in situations like this. He’s one of those glue guys on the road when the team’s together a lot.’’

Slow market

Richardson, back in the city where he spent the last four years as an assistant coach, naturally flipped on TSN during breakfast Monday at the Hawks’ hotel.

But he quickly learned there wasn’t much hockey news for the TV panel to discuss. Aside from a few big splashes, the trade market hasn’t heated up yet. The deadline is March 3.

‘‘It seems quiet everywhere,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘I’m sure there’s calls, but it’s just all, ‘Make sure you call me if you’re doing anything,’ and there’s no offers. That’s the only thing I’ve heard.’’

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