What better way to start the NHL regular season than with a glimpse into the future of the game? As part of the opening night triple-header scheduled to be played tonight, hockey’s newest phenom, Connor Bedard, and the Chicago Blackhawks will be in Pittsburgh to take on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. We’ll preview that matchup before going over my play on the total and which Bedard prop I’ll be targeting.
In his first NHL game, Bedard will line up against a Penguins team filled with veterans. Aside from the usual suspects of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, Pittsburgh also went out and acquired Erik Karlsson, who finished last season with a career-high 101 points.
Those four veterans and guys like Jake Guentzel will be out to improve a Penguins offense that finished in the middle of the pack last season in average goals per game (3.18) and total points (711). Protecting the net tonight for Pittsburgh will be 28-year-old Tristan Jarry, who put up a .909% save percentage last season. Jarry allowed an average of 2.9 goals against per game in 2022-23, and as a defense, Pittsburgh allowed 32.8 shots against per game.
Pittsburgh did not do much to improve their defense from last season, so in his first game, Connor Bedard won’t have an extremely daunting matchup. The first-round pick from the most recent NHL draft is tasked with improving a Blackhawks offense that averaged just 2.46 goals per game last season, which was the worst average in the league.
Bedard will get some help from veteran Taylor Hall, who joined Chicago in the offseason after recording 36 points in 61 games for the Bruins last season. Outside of Hall and a few others, the Blackhawks have a younger roster with guys like Lukas Reichel and Kevin Korchinski.
In goal for the Blackhawks tonight will be Petr Mrazek, who posted a .894% save percentage last season. Chicago struggled mightily on defense in 2022, as Mrazek allowed an average of 3.66 goals per game, and as a team, they finished 29th in opponent shooting percentage and 22nd in blocked shots.
The total for this game is set at 6.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play. In the last seven games between these two teams, the over has cashed in five of them, and with the way Chicago is constructed, I think we see them continue to let up goals like it’s nobody’s business.
Chicago made no real moves to improve their defense, and their goalie, Petr Mrazek, finished last season ranked 50th in goals saved above expected and 46th in save percentage on shots on goal. As I mentioned, Pittsburgh finished in the middle of the league in goals per game. However, with the addition of Karlsson, they still have the talent to take full advantage of the lackluster Chicago defense and goaltending.
With Bedard leading the charge for Chicago, there should be some improvement to the Blackhawks offense. Not only will Bedard challenge goalies with his fabulous wrist shot, but he should make his teammates better, as he finished the preseason with four assists in four games. Pittsburgh didn’t have a great defense last year, and I don’t think they’ll improve much this season, especially after Jarry was 24th in goals saved above expected last season.
It feels wrong not to take at least one Connor Bedard prop bet tonight, and for mine, I’ll be taking him to record over .5 assists at (+160). I’m already taking the over, which means I obviously expect Chicago to score, and I think Bedard will be involved in some way.
He will undoubtedly provide a lot of good scoring opportunities to his teammates, and with the Penguins allowing their opponents to get a lot of shots off, he seems primed for an assist. His shots on goal prop has already been bet up to the point where the value is gone, so I’ll back him to create chances for those around him tonight.
Connor Bedard Over .5 Assists (+160)