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Connor Bedard scored his first NHL goal. That’s what really matters, right? The tally was the biggest positive to take away from the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
Boston opened the scoring when Trent Frederic redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot past Blackhawks goalie Arvid Söderblom. Five minutes later, Bedard would tie the game, tucking an impressive wrap-around goal past the outstretched heel of a late-arriving Linus Ullmark.
Early in the second period, Taylor Hall took a blindside hit from Carlo and disappeared to the Blackhawks locker room favoring his arm. He came out later in the period for a single power-play shift, but quickly retreated back to the Hawks dressing room. He would not return to the game. After the game, Luke Richardson expressed his frustration with the hit. “I know exactly what it was,” Richardson said. “I used to do it all the time. But that’s out of the league now.”
David Pastrnak gave the Bruins the 2-1 lead after converting on a two-on-one with Milan Lucic. Wyatt Kaiser, who struggled in this game, laid out to break up the pass back, but Pastrnak had too much room and didn’t miss. The Hawks would be outshoot 10-5 in the period.
Pastrnak potted the empty netter for Boston with 00:56 to go in the third to seal the win for the Bruins.
Here are our three takeaways from the game:
Jay Zawaski: Lukas Reichel failing to produce early
Lost in the excitement of Tuesday’s thrilling win over the Penguins was the performance from Lukas Reichel. He finished the game with two shots on goal and won only 20 percent of his faceoffs. Analytically, he was decent, but failed to create much offense while on the ice.
Wednesday wasn’t much different. Despite a nice scoring chance in the second period, Reichel was mostly a non-factor until the third period, when he was paired with Bedard mid-way through the frame. More on that in a bit. He finished the game with two shots on goal and one more shot attempt and won two of his 10 faceoffs.
With Reichel starting at center for the first time in his NHL career, some struggles are to be expected, so I’m not panicked about his performance yet. With the apparent injury to Hall, one has to wonder if Luke Richardson might consider switching Reichel to Bedard’s left wing beyond this loss. He did get some time with Bedard during the third period, but the Hawks were down Hall and Jason Dickinson, who was in the box serving a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Richardson was also loading up the top line as the team was trailing by a goal. As you’d expect, Reichel looked like a different player when skating with Bedard and Andrea Athanasiou, which is a good sign.
Could Reichel see that as the Hawks giving up on him at center? Possibly, but this staff does a good job of communicating with their players. Perhaps experiencing some success offensively could get him jump-started.
I’m confident Reichel will eventually figure things out, but had the Hawks not drafted Bedard, Reichel would have been this season’s top story. For the first time in his career, he’s playing with legitimate expectations to produce.
It’s something to keep an eye on.
Greg Boysen: Taylor Hall injured after fast start
Hall spent two and a half seasons in a Bruins uniform before he was traded to Chicago in the offseason. He was very productive in Bean Town, with 44 goals and 111 points in 158 games.
You could tell early that he was playing with a chip on his shoulder against his former mates. Hall had the Blackhawks’ first shot on goal and then picked up his first point with the primary assist on Bedard’s goal. He had two shots on goal and a blocked shot during a very active first period.
Hall’s night turned for the worse on his first shift of the middle frame. Bruins’ defenseman Brandon Carlo lined him up in the neutral zone and hit him up high. The former Hart Trophy winner went right to the visiting locker room in obvious discomfort. He came back for one shift on a power play halfway through the period but went right back down the tunnel when it concluded. The team announced before the start of the third period that he would not return to the game.
Luke Richardson told reporters that Hall is “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury and added that he did not like the hit by Carlo.
Andreas Athanasiou stepped up to the Bedard line in Hall’s absence. That line, with and without Hall, was the only one to produce much of anything at 5v5. As a team at full strength, the Blackhawks had 39 shot attempts to Boston’s 64.
Mario Tirabassi: Blackhawks netminders off to solid starts
I know it’s just two games into the season and just one performance each for Arvid Söderblom and Petr Mrazek, but the Blackhawks are going to win, or at the very least be competitive in a lot of games if they get the kinds of games we saw from those two to begin this season. After Mrazek made 38 saves on 40 shots last night, Söderblom came out with a 30-save performance tonight in the 3-1 loss.
The Blackhawks believe in Söderblom as one of, if not, the goaltender of the organization’s future. He’s been good in the AHL leading up to this opportunity in the NHL, and behind him are Drew Commesso and to a lesser extent Adam Gajan. Söderblom has time to grab ahold of the reins of the starter job and giving more performances like tonight will allow him to do that.
On the other side is Mrazek, a goaltender who is not signed beyond this season with the Blackhawks and likely is playing this season with his career in the NHL on the line. Injuries have been his biggest pitfall, leading to him not being able to string together long stints of quality play. But if his body can cooperate with him this season, we could see Mrazek potentially become a trade chip at the deadline, or at the very least be a reliable starter for this Blackhawks team as Söderblom continues to grow his game at the NHL level. Either way, the early impressions in net should give Blackhawks fans some optimism for this season.
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