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Hello! And welcome back to Season Two of Blackhawks Beat. Each Tuesday, I’ll dump hockey thoughts from my brain onto you. These first few will be unlocked to everyone, then we’ll make them a Diehard-only perk, similar to Adam Hoge’s “Bears Things” newsletter.
Want to make sure you get them all year? You can become a Diehard today and not only get all my newsletters, but access to Mario and Greg’s weekly “Rebuild Report” and a free Hawks-inspired t-shirt as well!
Before I begin Blackhawks Beat 2.1, a couple of important qualifiers for this one.
- I’m not worried .0001% about Connor Bedard’s on-ice play
- I’m not worried .0001% about Connor Bedard’s ability to handle the pressure he’s been faced with off the ice so far this season
- I don’t think Connor Bedard’s media responsibilities have diminished his game at all
Now that that’s out of the way…
If you take a look around Hockey Twitter these days, you’ll see fans of the 31 other NHL teams upset at just how much coverage Connor Bedard is getting. It’s understandable from their perspectives. They all wanted Bedard and didn’t get him, and every highlight, Reel, TikTok, Tweet (or Xeet) in a Blackhawks uniform is a reminder of that fact.
The coverage of Bedard is justified, of course. He’s been on hockey’s radar since he was 13 years old and has been the unquestioned top prospect for at least two seasons now. Had he been draft-eligible in 2022, he would have gone first overall in that draft at age 16.
Hockey fans should be pleased to see the NHL properly promoting one of their new faces of the game (for once). The NHL is in a second “Golden Age.” The talent in the league right now is better and deeper than ever. Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby are two of the best ever to play the game. At some point, Alex Ovechkin will break Wayne Gretzky’s seemingly unbreakable all-time goals record. Auston Matthews started his 2023-24 campaign with two consecutive hat-tricks. Now, you add Bedard to the mix, in a market like Chicago and it’s a perfect recipe for the NHL. Bedard’s first two games broke regular season ratings records for ESPN and TNT.
Wherever Bedard goes, there is a throng of media waiting for him, and he’s handled the spotlight with an impressive amount of grace, poise and humor.
When we were in Pittsburgh and the smoke of the morning skate media crush calmed, I wondered to myself, “When does this end for him? When does Bedard get a break?” I spoke with a source close to the team about the demands and how Bedard was handling everything and was told he’s doing great and understands that this attention comes with the territory.
Then Monday morning, in our CHGO Blackhawks group chat, Mario Tirabassi sent a video of Taylor Hall talking about this very topic.
“I think he’s handling it really well,” Hall said. “He does way too many in-game interviews and stuff. They need to find a way to just let him play. I think he understands his role as a major ambassador for the game of hockey. He’s handling it so well. He doesn’t seem to be fazed by it, but I think that it can be a little much for him at times. He doesn’t say that, but it feels like it is.”
The text here probably gives a different context than the video does, so if you didn’t click ‘play’ I’d suggest you do. I don’t think Hall is criticizing Bedard AT ALL. I think he feels for him. As a former No. 1 overall pick himself, Hall understands the pressures that come with that honor, but Hall was drafted in 2010. There wasn’t the constant social media attention, and Edmonton isn’t quite Chicago in terms of coverage.
So I ask again, when does Bedard get a break? All we’ve heard from him, from the second he pulled that Blackhawks sweater over his head in Nashville, is that he just wants to play hockey. He’s been great so far. The best Blackhawk by a significant margin. At some point, the break will come for him…likely when the Blackhawks have an extended home stand. Until then, we can expect Bedard to face the media with a smile on his face, even if he just wants to get back on the damn ice.
*not actually free
If you’re a sports wagerer, one bet we’ve been hammering this season is Connor Bedard shots on goal. Most books, including our friends at Draft Kings (use code CHGO when you sign up), have set the over/under line at 3.5 shots per game. The over has hit every … single … time. That’s right…4/4 times the over has hit. Until that number adjusts, bet it. Yes, the wager comes with minus odds, but even small wins are wins. I will be playing this every game until the number hits 5.5, and even then I’ll be tempted.
The Week Ahead
Things don’t get easier for the Blackhawks, who have started the season with an absolutely loaded schedule of quality opponents on the road.
Thursday — at Colorado Avalanche
The 2022 Stanley Cup Champions are off to a 2-0 start after beating the LA Kings 5-2 and the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in the shootout. This team, as you know, is absolutely loaded with talent. Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Devon Toews (still the ‘other Toews’ to me) will provide a nice measuring stick to see where the Blackhawks are in comparison to the best teams in the league. The Hawks must be ready at puck-drop for this game. Hopefully they learned their lesson in Montreal.
Saturday — Vegas Golden Knights (Home Opener)
Back-to-back games against the last two Stanley Cup Champions. Welcome home, Hawks! Vegas is 3-0, and has outscored its opponents (Seattle, San Jose, Anaheim) 12-3 in those games. They’re an absolute wagon and will be a Cup favorite again this season, barring disastrous injures. NOTE: Mark Stone missing the last half of the season with an exaggerated/made up injury so they can fit another stud player under the cap does NOT count as “disastrous.” That’s just cap manipulation.
Enjoy the rest of week everyone and we’ll see you back here next Tuesday,
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