Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East, Sportsnet 360, CITY-TV (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: ESPN+, Sportsnet Now
A 2023 to-do list:
- Play a big role in Canada’s victory at the World Juniors. Check.
- Dominate the CHL. Check.
- Make professional debut. Check.
- Score first pro goal this week. Check.
- Hang out in Montreal this weekend. Check.
But enough about Joshua Roy.
Joking aside, one week into the season, the Connor Bedard show is in full swing. Amazingly, the NHL — showing that a blind squirrel can indeed find a nut once in a while — has actually managed to anticipate Connormania. It’s not a coincidence that Bedard’s career starts with:
- A date in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby
- Two games against the President’s Trophy winners
- The Montreal Canadiens’ home-opener
- The centre of the universe
- The last two Stanley Cup winners — the most recent one twice
- A charity showcase at Mullett Arena
It may not be the Eras Tour, but at least Connor will visit Canada before Taylor, and the Montreal Canadiens could not have asked for a bigger guest of honour for their 2023-24 home-opener.
|42.6% (29th)||Scoring-chances-for %||53.9% (5th)|
|5.00 (7th)||Goals per game||2.50 (17th)|
|5.00 (23rd)||Goals against per game||2.50 (11th)|
|25.0% (9th)||PP%||0.0% (22nd)|
|50.0% (27th)||PK%||100.0% (10th)|
|2-0-0||Head-to-head record (’22-23)||0-1-1|
Bedard has more or less come as advertised. Two points in two games has the most-recent first overall selection tied for the team lead in scoring. Head coach Luke Richardson is also not being shy with the generational talent, putting Bedard on the ice for an average of 21:37 per game — second on the team to Seth Jones.
The Chicago Blackhawks have also more or less come as advertised. The era of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is well and truly over. Apart from Bedard, the team features an assortment of veterans looking to establish second (or third, fourth, fifth…) homes: Tyler Johnson, Nick Foligno, Petr Mrazek, Jason Dickinson, Andreas Athanasiou, Taylor Hall (who is out day-to-day) and old Montreal acquaintances Corey Perry and Jarred Tinordi. If anything, the Blackhawks bear a resemblance to the 2022-23 Montreal Canadiens, a phalanx of veterans insulating a budding core. The roster has been been constructed not for winning hockey games, but to foster a positive learning environment for Bedard and fellow rookie Kevin Korchinski.
Which makes the home-opener a “should-win” for the Tricolore.
Expectation has been the subject du jour since the Canadiens dropped a 6-5 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. That night, the Habs showed both that they can compete with the league’s front-runners and that they are very much a work-in-progress. The general consensus is taking an optimistic outlook, emphasizing Alex Newhook’s two goals or Arber Xhekaj’s two points (one puck in Ilya Samsonov’s net and one Ryan Reaves in Jake Allen’s) rather than two blown two-goal leads or four goals allowed in short-handed-esque situations.
Expectations change over time and depending on the situation. In the event that both teams play to their full potentials, the Canadiens should not defeat the Maple Leafs. That is not the case for the Chicago Blackhawks. While the ping-pong ball gods have deemed it so that Habs regrettably cannot claim a Bedard-esque talent in their ranks, they are still superior to their Saturday night opposition at most of the other positions up and down the roster.
These are the games where the Canadiens should be expected to come out with a strong effort predicated upon good fundamentals, where the team’s depth can shine, and where special teams is at the very least not a liability. These are the games where Martin St-Louis’s vision for his team should be plainly obvious in the on-ice product. These are the games where, regardless of the scoreboard at the end of the night, the Canadiens should be better than their opposition.
These are the nights to hold the torch high, high enough to outshine even Connor Bedard.