The Blackhawks came to Tampa with a chip on their shoulder after dropping their last game to the Devils, and as I mentioned in the preview blog, I was very interested to see how they would respond to that loss after having a heart-to-heart players-only meeting. Well, whatever message was sent in that meeting was heard loud and clear as the Hawks took care of business behind a fantastic performance from the young stud, Connor Bedard. Here are my three takeaways from this one:
Connor Bedard Officially Had His Coming Out Party
This entire season, we have seen why Bedard was touted as the next big thing in the NHL: his hockey IQ is off the charts, his speed is beyond impressive, and his puck handling is mesmerizing. However, even showing all that, you could see the frustration growing in the rookie as he only had 3 points (1g, 2a) in his first five games. There was never really concern that he wasn’t going to find his game, but more of a growing impatience for Bedard. Well, it's safe to say we are starting to get that, as he had four goals in his last six games. If there was any doubt that he hasn’t settled in yet, those doubts should be put to rest as he put up his first career multi-goal and multi-point game as he registered 2 goals and 2 assists against the Tampa Bay Lightning (three of which came in the first period). He became the youngest player to score a multi-goal game in Blackhawks history and the youngest player to record a four-point game since Bep Guidolin in 1944. Simply put, this kid is special, and this is going to be just the first of many nights that we all sit back and go, "Man, I’m glad he’s a Blackhawk.”
Young D Continue to Impress.
While it wasn’t the sexiest first career goal, Kevin Korchinski finally gets to cross that achievement off his list. They don’t ask how; they just ask how many. It looked like he might have been looking for Perry in front of the net; the puck goes off a Lightning skate, and just like that, Korchinski is an NHL goal scorer. After a slow start and a few moments of wondering if it might be beneficial for a trip to Rockford, Wyatt Kaiser has really started to settle into a grove out there. I really am enjoying watching him skate out of the zone with confidence and show a lot of good puck protection and ability to make a play. He is gaining the confidence of the coaching staff as he finished this game with 18:28 of total ice time. Then you have arguably the best defender on this team in Alex Vlasic, who continues to just play good defensive hockey. He finished this one with an even rating and 2nd on the team in ice time with 23:28.
Petr Mrazek's Strong Season Continues
This one was all eyes on the offense, so it was easy to look past what Mrazek did in the net tonight. All season he has made some big time saves, and if it weren’t for him, the Hawks could be looking more like the San Jose Sharks right about now. He stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced (20/22 at even strength and 8/9 on the PP and 2/2 SH) for a.909 SV%. He earned his fourth win, which he didn’t get until January 12, 2023, against the Avalanche. The 31-year-old is playing for his next contract and trying to prove that he can still be a key player for any team. I know it's early, but I think he’s doing just that, and he could be extremely valuable come trade deadline time if he keeps this up.
Three Stars 1st Star: Connor Bedard 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points 2nd Star: Nick Foligno: 3 assists 3rd Star: Kevin Korchinski's First Career Goal
This was a great start to the moms trip, and now they will have two days to enjoy the Florida weather before wrapping up this quick road trip against the Panthers. Hopefully they figured out what they needed to do to put up back-to-back good performances, but more of that on Sunday.