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

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

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

He quickly bounced back and entered Tuesday’s Hawks-Canadiens rematch as his team’s leading scorer since New Year’s Day, with seven goals and 12 points over 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,” Dach said. “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 ex-Hawks Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton first rushed Dach prematurely into the NHL, then didn’t give him a long-enough leash to find his own footing once he got there. Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis hasn’t made those same mistakes, giving Dach an average of 19:17 of ice time per game since Nov. 12.

“When you’re getting to play more minutes and the coach trusts you, you have more fun,” Dach added. “I want to say I’m the same player that I was there, but obviously there’s differences. I have more confidence and I’m playing better and producing.”

Toews remains absent

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

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

On Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, Toews will miss his fifth consecutive game and seventh overall due to illness since the start of December. It’s possible he could fly in and join the team 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 — actually 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 added. “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.”

Quiet market

Richardson, back in the city where he spent the last four years as an assistant coach, naturally flipped on TSN during breakfast Monday morning at the Hawks’ Montreal 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 league-wide yet.

“It seems quiet everywhere,” he 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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