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10 observations: Connor Bedard, Blackhawks put a bow on 2023-24 season

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in overtime on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena to put a bow on the 2023-24 season.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

1. The Blackhawks finished the season with a 23-53-6 record and 52 points, which is their fewest points in franchise history since the NHL went to an 80-plus game schedule in 1974. They won only seven games on the road and 16 at home. They finished 31st in the standings, which means they're guaranteed a Top 4 pick.

2. Connor Bedard's rookie NHL season is in the books. His final stat line: 22 goals, 39 assists and 61 points in 68 games. I feel like he would've averaged a point per game if he didn't missed 14 games with a fractured jaw, but that's just me. Chicago's No. 1 overall pick in 2023 didn't just meet expectations, he exceeded them.

3. Petr Mrazek was the team MVP (with Bedard right behind him). He had a .908 save percentage and saved 1.6 goals above expected, per Money Puck, in 56 appearances, which is a new career-high for him. For context, the league average save percentage this season was .903. For him to finish above average on a Blackhawks team that gave up a ton of chances is impressive.

4. Lukas Reichel had a tough season, and that's putting it lightly. I think next season is going to be crucial for him. He has to show significant improvement to prove he should be part of the future. Reichel was hoping to represent Team Germany in the IIHF World Championship in May but the Blackhawks are sending him to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs for the Calder Cup Playoffs instead, which indicates the management group needs to see him take over in the postseason and get back to being himself so he can head into the summer with a better taste in his mouth.

5. Kevin Korchinski's rookie campaign was up and down. I think he could have benefitted from an AHL stint this season but he was ineligible due to Canadian Hockey League rules. I don't have many doubts that he'll be a high-end offensive defenseman. It's the defensive part that needs to be elevated to a more respectable. He's still very young though and has a lot of muscle to add. Once he fills out his frame over the next few years, he'll get stronger in battle drills and boxing out forwards in front of the net.

6. Alex Vlasic was the breakout player of the season for the Blackhawks. I believe he is establishing himself as a core member of the next great Blackhawks team. Very interested to see what his next contract looks like.

7. I imagine Arvid S√∂derblom wants to throw this season in the trash. I thought he had a fine first couple months and he just wasn't getting run support. But after that, his game trended in the wrong direction. I'm sure it's going to motivate him all summer to be much better next season.

8. Jason Dickinson is quietly becoming an elite shutdown center in the NHL. The Blackhawks had a +9 goal differential this season when he was on the ice during 5-on-5 action, per Natural Stat Trick. They had a -93 differential when he wasn't on the ice. He faced top competition every night, and he also scored a career-high 22 goals. What a season.

9. What an acquisition Nick Foligno was to the Blackhawks. He was the de-facto captain and helped the team navigate some difficult waters early in the season, both on and off the ice. His impact was evident this season, but years from now, we're still going to be hearing from some of the younger players on the team how impactful Foligno actually was.

10. The Blackhawks have quite a few free agents, both unrestricted and restricted. A lot of them aren't expected to be back. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a bit of a different make-up next season on the bottom-six.

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