Game on: Bedard and Co. looking forward to preseason tilt with Blues
Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson can't imagine what it would be like to go through an NFL or Major League Baseball training camp.
In the NFL, you report, practice for weeks on end and get three preseason games sprinkled in.
In MLB, you report, work on drills for two-to-three weeks and then begin a monthlong spring training schedule.
"I guess that's why they bring their golf clubs," quipped Richardson.
In the NHL, you report and about one week later there's a preseason game. In the Hawks' case, it will come against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday at the United Center.
"I can't wait," said Hawks rookie phenom Connor Bedard. "You train so hard throughout the summer and every day, which is great and you want to see where that gets you in the game. Of course, me being a guy coming in that hasn't tested himself against those players, its pretty big to get in that environment and see how you feel leading up to the season."
Which is only two weeks away.
Before we get there, it will be interesting to see how the Hawks continue to gel together on and off the ice. It's dangerous to jump to any conclusions after only a few days, but this team's speed, ice awareness and flow far exceeds what we've seen over the last few years.
There's a sense the Hawks might surprise and exceed some pretty low expectations.
One sign came Tuesday when veteran forward Nick Foligno made an astute observation after his Team Red's 6-3 loss in a scrimmage at Fifth Third Arena. Foligno looked across the locker room and saw Bedard "pouting."
Seems like such a small thing. But not to Foligno.
"I just love that," said the one-time captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. "Everything matters, especially in training camp. You're already seeing the competitive nature of some guys and how (they) walk into the room, how they react and carry themselves."
Foligno loves what he's seen from forward Lukas Reichel, and defensemen Wyatt Kaiser and Alex Vlasic -- all of whom are 21 or 22 years old.
"I could go around the room," said Foligno, who has 1,081 games under his belt. "I've been really impressed with the attitudes and the professionalism of the young kids. So it speaks volumes about even the group last year in helping (them) along through a tough (season). They've come in and just really gotten to work, and realized the opportunity in front of them and want to make the most of it."
Before we get ahead of ourselves and start predicting an 80-point season, let's remember something: The Hawks figure to struggle defensively. We saw that in the two scrimmages, with 14 goals (1 an empty-netter) scored in the equivalent of about four periods.
Of course, some of that is because nobody's plowing their teammates into the boards. But still, it looks like Richardson's top two centers will be Bedard (18 years old) and Reichel (21), and the D-core could feature Vlasic (21 NHL games), Isaak Phillips (20), Filip Roos (17), Kaiser (9) and Kevin Korchinski (zero).
Richardson hopes the solution is hard-skating forwards who play structurally sound defense.
"Especially if you have a younger defense, (that's) going to make them feel confident," Richardson said. "They keep their gap up a little more and all that does is turn pucks over ... and we're connected a little better in all three zones."
Petr Mrazek is expected to start in net and will be replaced by Drew Commesso about midway through the second period.
The Hawks' next two preseason games are Saturday at Minnesota and Sunday at Detroit. They then host the Red Wings on Tuesday.