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Roll Up: Blackhawks 4, Penguins 2

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A fun night watching Blackhawks hockey. Remember those?

The Chicago Blackhawks opened the 2023-24 season and the Connor Bedard era with a come-from-behind 4-2 win on the road over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh controlled the scoring early, taking the lead seven minutes into the first period when Bryan Rust neatly redirected this pass from Kris Letang into the Chicago net:

That advantage became 2-0 in the middle of the second period after Sidney Crosby scored off of a neat give-and-go with Jake Guentzel:

One of the themes of the game was big saves from Blackhawks goaltender Petr Mrazek. Here’s an example:

Saves like that kept Chicago in striking distance and then Ryan Donato put the Blackhawks on the board late in the second period when he corralled this rebound and quickly worked it to his backhand for the tap-in goal:

Of note on that goal? It was the first point of Connor Bedard’s career, as he picked up the secondary assist. And this secondary assist was well-earned:

Chicago’s roll continued into the third period and Cole Guttman tied the game up with this one-timer near the midpoint of the final 20 minutes:

The Blackhawks took the lead five minutes later when a puck bounced to Jason Dickinson and he rifled it past Tristan Jarry:

Nick Foligno added the empty-netter to seal the season-opening victory for the Blackhawks.

Been a while since a Blackhawks win felt that good, hasn’t it? So let’s get to some happier notes:


  • There was plenty of chatter about Bedard’s faceoff struggles in this game and finishing 2-for-13 at the dot is certainly not ideal. But there’s pretty healthy data to suggest that what happens after the faceoff is more important than simply winning it. Bedard had the best shot-attempt share (58.82 percent) and expected goal share (63.25 percent) during 5-on-5 play on Chicago. He was tied with Tyler Johnson for the team lead in individual high-danger chances at three. Bedard did just about everything but score a goal in this game. And he still found a way to contribute, with his nifty setup of the play which resulted in Donato’s goal. There’s so, so much to like about what he did and there’s even more to come.
  • Bedard seemed to score a ton of his goals in juniors and elsewhere by pushing a defenseman back with his own speed, then pulling up just enough to create the space necessary for his lethal wrist shot to get through and into the net. It seemed like Bedard tried that a few times in this game but did not create enough separation from the defender in front of him or was tied up by a back-checker as soon as he slowed down. Could be something to watch in his first handful of NHL games as he learns how to create scoring chances for himself in this league.
  • One of the consistent gripes from the SCH perspective on last season (and the last several seasons, really) has been that the Blackhawks are constantly outshot and out-chanced in addition to being outscored. In this game, it was a different story. At 5-on-5 play, the Blackhawks owned a 27-21 lead in scoring chances and had a 53.55 percent share of expected goals. It’s not a huge margin and it’s only one game, but it’s a very encouraging sign. Just a good, solid performance across the entire roster in this game.
  • Petr Mrazek’s is in the final year of his contract here and his Chicago tenure is almost certainly done after it but consistent performances like that could make him an interesting piece for some contending team to pursue at the trade deadline. Consistency has been a pitfall of his, so we’ll see where it goes from here.
  • Cole Guttman was excellent in a small sample last year and scoring a game-tying goal in this season’s debut is a perfect way to continue the impressive display. His read of the play to find an open space was good, but the hands he displayed in scoring the goal were even better. More of that would be fun to have.
  • After Dickinson scored the eventual GWG, the next shift went to Alex Vlasic and Seth Jones, followed by Wyatt Kaiser and Connor Murphy. Putting youngsters like Vlasic and Kaiser in the pressure situations of defending a one-goal lead late is a great way to enhance their development. Here’s hoping they have such leads to defend in the future.
  • Speaking of those young defenseman; Vlasic played 20:32 in this game. Korchinski played 19:19. Kaiser played 15:06. That is half of Chicago’s D corps comprised of players under the age of 23. This all bodes well for the future.
  • Let’s not get too wrapped up in any individual performances yet, though, because it is only one game. But let’s do get wrapped up in seeing Twitter abuzz with Blackhawks conversations during the game and our game thread having well over 200 comments. It’s been quite some time since there was this much excitement about the Blackhawks and it’s just nice to have that feeling again.
  • See you back here tomorrow night.

Game Charts

Three Stars

  1. Jason Dickinson (CHI) — GWG, assist
  2. Petr Mrazek (CHI) — 38 saves
  3. Bryan Rust (PIT) — 1 G