I’ll throw out all the caveats first, because that’s what every hockey fan outside of Chicago wants.
It was only a Prospects game, the NHL’s version of a condensed summer league right before training camp. Basically, it was full of players at a level that Connor Bedard has already dominated, be it in juniors or at the World Junior Championships last December and January. It’s nothing new.
And yes, the Blackhawks will still suck, so the hockey world doesn’t have to worry about our uncomfortable preening and bravado just yet. But it’s coming, because of what Bedard’s hat trick against whatever flotsam the Blues dug up to go up against him on Saturday night portends. Sure, there’s probably only a couple NHL players on either roster for these. But players like Bedard are supposed to turn them into chum on the way to becoming the face of the league. To wit:
That curl and drag, and the venom on the ensuing shot, is going to beat at a lot of NHL goalies, too. What’s most striking, and really most striking about all of his goals, is the laughable ease Bedard pulls it off with. This is the same effort and attention you and I give to taking our vitamins in the morning, and he’s flicking a wrist to Hadoken a puck top cheese.
The second goal is the peach:
Here’s another angle to truly appreciate the ludicrousness of it:
Pitching analysis has spent a lot of time talking about “tunneling.” How much of a “tunnel” did Bedard have from below the goddamn dots to the far corner here? Even if there wasn’t a goalie in the way, hitting that spot on the ice by oneself would be considered tricky. Bedard just sneezes this out. This would be the definition of taking the piss.
The third goal seems almost pedestrian after the first two. Yes, by this point the game is being played in a “let’s get this over with” manner, but the release. My god, the release:
That’s off his stick in a unit of time that can barely be measured. The shot is merely a rumor to whatever plug St. Louis had in net.
Whatever the caveats, Bedard’s scoring instincts are off the charts in Ovechkin-land for someone coming into the league. While teams will certainly try to push him or block him off from certain spots on the ice, that’s only a limited protection plan when every spot on the ice is his spot. That shot from below the dots is a place teams are going to want him to shoot from on the power play, until he starts picking corners from there anyway. And if they have to stretch out to stop him wherever he is? Just open ice in the middle from somewhere else.
To boot, keeping him from the prime scoring areas will take more than a smile given his shiftiness and the unholy release. He’ll be in and out of those areas too quickly for any team or d-man to do much about it. This is a pocket-sized Nathan MacKinnon with a nitrous oxide tank on his shot release. The NHL hasn’t seen a 70+ goal scorer in 30 years. It won’t be this season, which is rapidly approaching, but Bedard is as sure of a bet to be the next one as there is.
It’ll take a while, or maybe it won’t, for Bedard to come to terms with how the ice looks with adults on it with him. How those lanes close, where the hits come from, where the space is. But it won’t be that long. This is coming for everyone.
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