Bedard is living up to the hype, but Blackhawks remain one of the NHL's worst teams
CHICAGO (AP) — Asked how he processes losing, Connor Bedard recalled one of his seasons with the Regina Pats — his junior hockey team in Canada.
He didn't have to look back very far. After all, the rookie center just turned 18 in July.
“I remember my 16-year in Reg, we didn’t make playoffs and had a slow patch, kind of similar to what we’ve had right now just at the start of the year," he said. "It was pretty slow, we had a losing streak and stuff. It sucks, you never want to lose games.
“We know we’re a better team than what our record shows. We just got to keep coming to the rink every day and being positive and trying to get better, and hopefully that shows in the win column.”
While Bedard has lived up to the considerable hype he brought with him to Chicago, he can only do so much. The Blackhawks still look like a team at the beginning of a rebuilding project, albeit with a budding offensive star and a handful of promising defensemen.
Chicago has dropped four straight and 10 of 12 overall after Tuesday night's 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville. It is off to a 7-16-1 start after it was 7-13-4 through its first 24 games last season.
“Every guy in here wants to do well,” forward Nick Foligno said. “I think that's the hard part, is we're not getting results.”
The biggest problem for Chicago is its lack of scoring punch, even with Bedard in the fold. Heading into Wednesday's NHL slate, the Blackhawks ranked 30th in the league with 59 goals, and its power play was 29th at 10.7%. They have scored six times during their current slide.
The Blackhawks tried to address their lines in the offseason, bringing in veteran forwards Taylor Hall, Corey Perry and Foligno. But Hall is out with a season-ending knee injury and Perry was cut for violating team conduct policies.
Andreas Athanasiou, who had 20 goals and 20 assists for Chicago last season, is on injured reserve with a groin injury. Lukas Reichel, a first-round pick in the 2020 draft, is off to a disappointing start with two goals and four assists in 23 games.
“We’ve started out some games, we’ve had some good O-zone and sometimes a little bit too much on the outside,” coach Luke Richardson said. “We want to make sure we’re not just tossing pucks into the inside when we’re not ready for it. I think we have to be a little more determined to get pucks to the net, and I think that starts at the back end shooting pucks more and a little quicker.”
Of course, all is not lost for Chicago. Not with Bedard looking every bit the player the Blackhawks thought he would be when they took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Bedard leads all NHL rookies with a team-high 11 goals and 20 points. From his awareness, vision and playmaking ability to his unflappable demeanor in the face of enormous attention off the ice, he appears to be well on his way to becoming one of the league's biggest stars.
He has displays of frustration, like when he broke his stick and punched the back of the boards during a 5-1 loss at Detroit last week, but he seems to be able to move on quickly.
“We’re competitive athletes and that’s going to happen,” he said. “But for sure, you don’t want to show too much. It’s something maybe the last few games I could get better at, but everyone has their moments.”
A smiling Bedard then remembered a time when he was “a bit of a baby” when things didn't go his way on the ice.
“But I was really young, so my parents just said, ‘Stop,’” he said.
Beyond Bedard, the hope for the Blackhawks extends to a group of young defensemen led by Kevin Korchinski. The 19-year-old Korchinski, another first-round pick, has two goals and five assists in 24 games. He looks as if he could be a mainstay on Chicago's blue line for years to come.
In the meantime, the Blackhawks have been plagued by inconsistency in several areas — something they talk about a lot, but can't seem to translate to the ice.
“In order to move the needle to where we need it to, we've got to show sustained flashes. We've got to show that we can do that the whole game,” Foligno said. “Even a whole period right now is what we need.
“It's there. It's like when your kid acts out,” he continued. “You know they can behave, but they do the other thing.”
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