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Kirby Dach Starting To Show Glimpses Of His Potential

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Kirby Dach

When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Kirby Dach, they saw the potential for a big, top-six centre with exceptional vision and dominant transition play; and Dach gave us a glimpse of that potential against the Winnipeg Jets.

General manager Kent Hughes was very reluctant to move Alexander Romanov to acquire the assets necessary to secure the services of Kirby Dach, but it’s evident to see why he ultimately pulled the trigger on those deals. Even if there were some holes in his game while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, Dach still displayed the aptitudes to be an elite transition player capable of rushing the puck up the ice due to his rare combination of size and skating.

There’s still much work to be done before one can say that Dach is anything more than a project for the club, but the early signs show that he’s hitting the ground running so far.

Top-End Puck Carrying Ability

It’s way too soon to make a definitive call on whether the trade was a success, but it is interesting to observe the flashes in Dach’s game that make him such an interesting project for the Canadiens to take on. Throughout camp, Dach has stood out due to his speed and puck skills; making plays with very little time and space and often skating himself out of trouble to avoid coverage.

However, in Chicago, the complaint was that his efficiency in that department began to dip the moment the game became too physical. Against the Winnipeg Jets, who had some tough customers on defence like Logan Stanley or Dylan Samberg, Dach faced the physicality head-on and, instead of shying away from contact, went head-first toward it and used the defenders’ aggressiveness to his advantage.

As evidence on the Canadiens’ first goal, before Kaiden Guhle fired home a laser that beat David Rittich, it was Dach who not only made the successful zone entry, but also maintained the puck in the offensive zone for multiple seconds before shaking off his coverage and dropping the pass to Guhle. In the past few seasons, few Canadiens forwards have been able to maintain a positive zone entry ratio on a regular basis, and that is actually one of Dach’s strong points.

Going To The High Danger Areas

Dach shied away from last season was getting to the high danger areas and paying the price, and the player himself admitted that he needed to get back in the habit of doing so shortly after being traded to Montreal. He certainly wasn’t shy about getting into the heat of things against the Jets’ toughest customers on Thursday night, as he took multiple hits and slashes and kept on going and continued pushing to get into dangerous areas.

One of Dach’s trademark moves while playing in the WHL as a junior player was his explosive entries from the left circle, followed by a power move to the net to beat the goalie top-shelf, blocker side. It’s something he’s done on a less regular basis in the NHL due to the tighter coverage, but, when he gets his feet moving, he could create the space necessary to execute such a move at the top level; and that’s just what he did.

Beating Stanley on the outside and using his 6’4 frame to protect the puck, Dach came down the left flank with speed and powered into the slot before having the puck poked away at the last second. Dach isn’t going to score an abundance of goals by beating goaltenders with the velocity of his shot, but his ability to power through tight coverage and make room for himself on the rush are rare aspects of a power-forward centre that could serve him and the Canadiens well down the road.

Deceptively Soft Hands

Dach was known as quite the sitckhandler early in his career, but an injury to his right wrist prior to the 2021 World Juniors created a persistent discomfort that made it difficult to execute his moves. The nagging injury has been an area of concern for Canadiens fans, as Dach was seen favouring his wrist during the early instances of the intra-squad scrimmages. However, Dach powered through and looked more and more comfortable with his wrist as he shook the rink-rust.

In his first preseason game, Dach showed some flashes of his stickhandling ability, but remained hesitant on the rush. Against the Jets however, he seemed far more comfortable and actively used his stickhandling to evade coverage and create space for himself. It wasn’t simply his ability to dangle, but aqlso to change handedness on of his stick t protect the puck from incoming forecheckers. To be able to change your grip on your stick and maintain possession of a puck, your wrist needs to be sturdy to balance the puck on your stick blade while in movement, and Dach executed such plays on a few occasions last night.

Area Of Improvement: Faceoffs

One area of Dach’s game that has been an issue throughout his entire career is faceoffs. For a centre, it’s imperative to get as close to 50%, or higher, as possible if you want to ensure your chances of prolonged puck possession. As a puck-possession centre, constantly starting his presences without the puck often hurt Dach’s ability to do what he does best; skate up or around the ice with possession of the puck.

Although Dach was never particularly strong on the dot, his right wrist injury, his strong hand, was an impediment to him being able to have the strength and range of motion needed to win faceoffs consistently. It looked like it would be more of the same so far this preseason, as Dach was not particularly good at faceoffs during intrasquad games; but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Development coach Adam Nicholas is already working with Dach to improve this facet of his game, and Christian Dvorak is a pretty good mentor to have around to help him along too.

After ending the 1st period 0/2 in the faceoff circle, Dach was able to rally, finishing the night with a 60% efficiency in the faceoff circle. Sure it’s only one game, but these are the kinds of performances the Canadiens are looking to get from Dach this season.

 

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habbernack

The reason we didn’t see forwards carry the puck was because of the dump and chase system.

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