Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate CHGO Sports Community!

Hawks Hits: Connor Bedard & top line lead Blackhawks in blowout win over Ducks

Greg Boysen Avatar
March 13, 2024

We’ve come a long way from 2015 when the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks battled it out in a memorable Western Conference Finals. Last season, the Blackhawks leaped ahead of the Ducks in the Draft Lottery to win the first overall pick and change the trajectory of the franchise with Connor Bedard. Heading into tonight’s game, these two teams will again be among the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick. The Blackhawks weakened those odds by beating up on the Ducks 7-2.

The last time we saw the Ducks here on Dec. 7, Petr Mrazek made 37 saves for his first and still only shutout of the season. There would be no shutout tonight as Brett Leason scored a shorthanded goal midway through the first period. The Blackhawks had gotten out to a great start, and it felt like the momentum was all lost. However, Ryan Donato jammed the puck between the legs of John Gibson less than a minute later. It was his second goal in as many games and the Blackhawks’ seventh power-play goal in their last four games.

The opening moments of the second period didn’t go well for the Blackhawks for the second straight game. Leason netted his second goal of the net by firing the puck right between Mrazek’s legs to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. Once again, the home team had a quick response. Just 94 seconds later, Connor Bedard led the rush, looked off the shot, and found Philipp Kurashev, who scored his 12th goal of the season and second against the Ducks.

Later in the frame, the Blackhawks took advantage of a rare 4v3 power play, with Seth Jones beating Gibson for his fourth goal of the season. Bedard doubled the lead with just 29 seconds left in the middle frame. After a sloppy zone exit by the Ducks ended in a turnover, the rookie phenom blasted his 20th goal of the season from the left circle. Kurashev picked up his 100th NHL point with the secondary assist on the play.

The onslaught continued in the third period when MacKenzie Entwistle made it 5-2 at the 2:43 mark. Just 27 seconds later, Bedard set up Kurashev for another power-play one-timer.

This game had a little bit of everything: the wave, a “Green Bay Sucks” chant and a near-goalie fight!

Tyler Johnson scored the Blackhawks’ third power-play goal of the night shortly after the crazy sequence above.

The Blackhawks’ top line led the way with 13 combined points. Bedard had a goal and four assists, Foligno had four assists, and Kurashev had two goals and two helpers.

Jay: For One Night, a Playoff Atmosphere

For one night, a playoff atmosphere 

It’s been so long since the Blackhawks have been competitive, the atmosphere at the United Center Tuesday night almost felt foreign. 

There was an energy in the building before the game even began. Perhaps it was some residue from Connor Bedard’s three point performance and the team’s 7-4 win over Arizona, but to quote the great Jim Carr from Slap Shot!, “You can feel it. There’s an air of expectancy.”

The Hawks didn’t disappoint. Despite trailing 1-0 and 2-1 at points of the game, the team responded almost immediately after giving up goals. Then, Bedard and company took over. By the time the smoke cleared, the Hawks were leading 6-2, Ducks goalie John Gibson skated all the way into the Hawks zone to fight Petr Mrazek, the wave broke out, a Green Bay sucks chant started and all was right at the United Center for one night. 

After wins this season, Greg, Mario and I often daydream about what it’s going to be like on our postgames and in the UC when the Hawks are competitive again. Until then, we have nights like this as a preview. 

Greg: Andreas Athanasiou Looks Good in Return to Lineup

It’s been 124 days since we’ve seen Andreas Athanasiou in the Blackhawks’ lineup. He injured his groin against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 9, and the offense has missed. Sure, he only had four assists in his 11 games, but his elite speed is something other teams must be aware of.

Athanasiou really came into his own last season, especially after the trade deadline, when he was one of the most experienced players left on the roster. He earned a new two-year contract after scoring 20 goals and 40 points in 81 games. While not having him in the lineup for the last 54 games didn’t exactly cost them a run at the playoffs, not having his speed and skill on the ice surely hurt the lineup.

Head coach Luke Richardson said he didn’t have a ton of expectations for Athanasiou in his first game back.

“He’s a veteran who’s been around, so he knows how fast the game is this time of year,” he said. “I just told him to make sure he uses his speed and have a shot process first. He’s a good teammate and wants to pass the puck, so I’m just trying to get that in his head. I want him to use his speed to get the puck north. That will help our whole lineup, especially if he’s shooting first.”

The 29-year-old forward admitted to the crowd of reporters and cameras waiting for him at his locker stall that he is feeling some nerves ahead of his return to action.

“There are so many things to think about, so it’s hard to focus on just one thing,” he admitted. “I’ll prepare as well as possible and come to play. It feels pretty good, so the next step, obviously, is playing. I’ll get out there, play my game, and try to help the team win.”

Athanasiou used his speed to create a chance on his first shift but hit the side of the net. He was set up later in the period on an odd man rush by Taylor Raddysh, but Gibson denied him. Later in the opening frame, he picked up the secondary assist on Donato’s power-play tally.

Late in the second period, Athanasiou used his speed to draw a holding penalty on William Lagesson. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks did not convert, a rarity nowadays. He picked up his second assist of the night on Entwistle’s early third-period goal.

In addition to the two apples, Athanasiou’s triumphant return included three shots on goal, six shot attempts, and two takeaways. His speed was noticeable right from the start, and it is needed.

Mario: Ryan Donato Playing With Purpose

There is a nearly zero-percent chance of any pro athlete to be “OK” with being pulled from the starting lineup. They never want it to happen. On Tuesday night, Ryan Donato was a guy playing like he was holding onto his spot in the lineup.

The Blackhawks signed 2020 draft pick Landon Slaggert on Sunday afternoon and the 21-year old rookie took part in his first practice with the Blackhawks at Tuesday’s morning skate. Both Slaggert and Luke Richardson said that the plan is for him to make his NHL debut with the team on Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings. Which means someone who played tonight is going to come out of the lineup on Friday.

Donato did all he could to make sure he is not the one making room for Slaggert.

In 14:19 minutes of ice-time, Donato tallied three shots on goal, six shot attempts, three individual scoring chances, drew a penalty and scored his ninth goal of the season. It was an active night for the seven-year pro.

With the goal on Tuesday night, 17 of Donato’s 21 points this season have come in games at the United Center. When asked about why that might be during the first intermission interview with NBC Sports Chicago’s Darren Pang, Donato credited being able to go to church more often when the team is playing at home. Praise be.

Hopefully for Donato, the extra time in the pews means he continues to keep his spot in the lineup as well. Slaggert’s projections at the NHL level pretty much have him being the kind of guy that can play a role that Donato plays in the bottom-six forwards group. With the organization putting a heavy emphasis on the future and the young players, no one wants to be the guy who is bumped from the lineup for the new “shiny toy.”

Which is great. Competition for roster spots and ice-time will get the best out of each player and collectively bring the level of expectations up across the board. Now we’ll see if tonight’s effort was enough to continue seeing Donato in the lineup, and if he’s able to string together a number of games where he’s playing at this kind of level.

Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!

Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!

Just drop your email below!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?