10 observations: Sidney Crosby, Penguins spoil Connor Bedard’s surprise return in Blackhawks loss

10 observations: Sidney Crosby, Penguins spoil Connor Bedard’s surprise return in Blackhawks loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Connor Bedard‘s return was spoiled by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Thursday at the United Center.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

1. Bedard made a surprise early return after missing the last 14 games with a fractured jaw. He wasn’t expected to play until next week. He had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday and got clearance to take contact, and the Blackhawks put him through some contact drills on Thursday morning to prepare him for game action. No. 98 is back.

2. Bedard looked rusty in the first period, where he was on the ice for both of Pittsburgh’s goals. On the second one, his cross-ice pass in the offensive zone was intercepted and it immediately led to a rush the other way. Bedard settled down nicely after that, most notably recording a beautiful primary assist on Philipp Kurashev‘s goal. He was easily Chicago’s best player the rest of the game.

3. Arvid Söderblom made his first start post-bye week, and it was a tough first period. I thought he should’ve had the second goal by Pittsburgh even though it came off a Bedard turnover. He’s still searching for his first win since Nov. 24, which was almost three months ago.

4. Sidney Crosby, who had a four-point outing last season at the United Center, looked unreal in this game. He scored twice, including one 15 seconds into the contest, and could’ve had a third but his ridiculous backhand shot in the second period rang off the post. He’s on pace for 48 goals this season, which would be his highest since he scored 51 during the 2009-10 campaign. And he’s 36 years old. What a player.

5. The Blackhawks’ first pairing of Seth Jones and Alex Vlasic didn’t have the best game. Pittsburgh outscored Chicago 3-0 when the two of them were on the ice, and high-danger chances were 6-1 Penguins, per Natural Stat Trick.

6. The Blackhawks killed off their only penalty of the game. Since Jan. 5, they’re 41-for-46 on the kill for a percentage of 89.1. That ranks No. 1 in the NHL over that span.

7. The Penguins won in Chicago last season for the first time since Feb. 27, 2009. They were 0-5-3 over their previous eight games at the United Center. Now, the Penguins have won back-to-back games in Chicago.

8. The Penguins aren’t in a great spot. They’re five points out of the final wildcard position in the Eastern Conference, and Jake Guentzel is expected to miss up to four weeks with an injury. It will be interesting to see what Penguins president/GM Kyle Dubas does at the March 8 trade deadline.

9. Lukas Reichel was a healthy scratch for the fourth time this season. His confidence is fragile right now, and Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson knows it’s a delicate situation: “We realize when players are down on themselves and we don’t want to pile on but it’s the NHL. We have to somehow push them to get over that, and a lot of that’s internally with the player. We can only do so much and show them so much from video corrections or good stuff to try and get them feeling good about their game.”

10. The Blackhawks placed forward Rem Pitlick on waivers on Wednesday afternoon. He cleared on Thursday and was assigned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He was essentially here to serve as a fill-in while the Blackhawks dealt with a bunch of injuries.

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