Hawks don't kid around with Dach in his debut
Kirby Dach's NHL debut came with no kid gloves required.
Instead, the 18-year-old was thrown right into the deep end Sunday night at the United Center as coach Jeremy Colliton trusted the No. 3 overall pick to center a line with former league MVP Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome.
And to square off against one of the top teams in the league in the Washington Capitals.
And to -- gulp! -- start the game against perennial 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, 13-year veteran Nicklas Backstrom and star forward T.J. Oshie.
Welcome to the NHL, indeed, kid.
"Really good. Very pleased," Colliton said after the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss. "He looked comfortable. Made a lot of plays."
Well, some plays.
Dach, who went 1-for-5 on faceoffs and failed to get a shot on goal in 13:41 of ice time, admitted things were moving pretty fast out there. He slipped a nice pass to Kane in the first period that led to a high-quality chance, but other than that he wasn't overly noticeable the first 20 minutes.
"Just the pace of the game," Dach said when asked about the night's biggest challenge. "You really don't know what it's going to be like until you step out there with those guys and (see) just how big and strong they are."
Dach's biggest contribution came at 9:25 of the second period when he caught a high stick that drew blood from Chandler Stephenson. The ensuing four-minute double minor gave the Hawks a golden opportunity to take the lead.
But it was an opportunity they would badly waste as the Capitals' Nic Dowd scored 28 seconds later to give his team a 2-1 lead.
"He played well," said Kane, whose goal midway through the third period tied the game at 3-3. "Did some noticeable things where he's hanging onto the puck (with his) big body.
"He's obviously still a young kid. Pretty raw, but for his first game against … one of the better teams in the league, he was noticeable.
"There's some chemistry to be built there, so I think we can even be better."
Colliton could have eased Dach into the lineup by putting him on the fourth line, or by giving him fewer responsibilities on the wing with Kane and Strome.
But the coach thought Dach was mature and responsible enough to handle a tough assignment against a tough, rugged Capitals squad.
"He doesn't look like a centerman who is going to struggle in his own end," Colliton said. "He looks like he knows what he's doing down there.
"It's not going to be perfect, but there's the opportunity for him to get a lot better really quickly. We'll see how it plays out."
One mistake Dach did make came early in the third period when he allowed Ovechkin to slip into the slot and fire a bullet past Corey Crawford. It was Ovechkin's sixth goal of the season and it gave Washington a 3-1 lead.
Afterward, Dach didn't make any excuses.
Instead, he manned up and took 100 percent of the blame.
"I kind of saw him out of the corner of my eye and knew he was there," Dach said. "Obviously wasn't quick enough to react to the pass. He's one of the best goal-scorers to every play the game.
"At the same time, that's my fault. It's not Crow's."
Spoken like a true pro -- one who desperately wants to be with the team all season.
"My main focus right now is to try to belong here and stand out at the same time," Dach said. "I want to be a Blackhawk this year. It's a goal of mine and I'm striving for it."