The Chicago Blackhawks were hoping to get off to a good start after an eventful offseason, but the Colorado Avalanche had other ideas as they scored a 4-2 victory Wednesday night in Denver.
Bowen Byram, whom the Blackhawks passed over in the 2019 NHL Draft when they selected center Kirby Dach with the third overall pick, had a goal and an assist in huis NHL debut. Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri matched him with a goal and an assist apiece in the win.
Without further adieu, here were the Blackhawks’ Three Stars from their opening night loss to Colorado.
Third Star: Riley Stillman
A lot of eyes will be on Stillman this season as he looks to lock down the fifth defenseman role with the Blackhawks, and on opening night he ended up with two blocked shots, a shot on goal and four hits in the losing effort.
The Avalanche ratcheted up the physicality as the game went along, likely trying to stymie any Blackhawks’ attempts to get back into the game, and Stillman was a player that seemed to thrive in those types of conditions, throwing his weight around frequently and mixing it up with several Colorado players throughout the contest.
For a Blackhawks team that wasn’t exactly renowned for its grit and physicality last season, Stillman could distinguish himself as a player that acquits himself well in that department, so long as he remains smart about when and where he decides to throw his hits.
Second Star: Henrik Borgstrom
The centerpiece of a trade with the Florida Panthers last season, the Blackhawks have a lot of high hopes for Borgstrom, and he had a solid night at the office for Chicago, winning four of his eight draws, blocking two shots and picking up his first assist in a Blackhawks uniform in the loss.
Borgstrom also got to spend a good amount of time with Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel in the game, and the Blackhawks could potentially look to him as a center that can skate with either of those wingers. Hagel especially is an exciting prospect to look to as a linemate for Borgstrom, and if they can develop chemistry, the Blackhawks will have a really strong third line, freeing up Tyler Johnson to move around to different parts of the lineup.
First Star: Kirby Dach
The 2021-22 season is going to be a key one for Dach as he tries to prove worthy of the number three pick that the Blackhawks spent on him in 2019.
In the first game, with the spotlight on how he looked relative to the No. 4 pick in that draft in the form of Byram, Dach came out guns blazing, leading the team with five shots on goal and missing two more shots.
Dach was a limited factor in the face-off circle, winning three of five draws, but more importantly he was used in all areas of the ice, playing at even-strength, short-handed and on the power play.
That versatility is going to be key for Dach as he continues to develop, and if he can continue to log big minutes in a variety of roles, he’s going to be a very important part of this team moving forward.