5 games on the 2023-24 NHL schedule you need to see in person

With another exciting NHL season underway, which highly-anticipated NHL match-ups are must-sees in 2023-24? Here are five games you should check out in person.
Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid / Ethan Miller/GettyImages
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The 2022-23 NHL season concluded with the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights going head to head in the Stanley Cup Final, the latter coming away victorious. Cup contenders for 2023-24 include the Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers (although they haven't played like it so far), and Dallas Stars. These teams are playing action-packed hockey this year.

This season, the NHL is continuing its tradition of outdoor games, with the Heritage Classic which was between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 29, the Winter Classic between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 1, and the Stadium Series featuring the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils on Feb. 17, followed by the New York Rangers and New York Islanders on Feb. 18.

Connor Bedard, Luke Hughes, Matthew Knies, Logan Cooley, Adam Fantilli, and Devon Levi are exciting rookies this season. Superstars Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, Auston Matthews, and Nathan MacKinnon are primed for another electric season. Jack Hughes and Tim Stutzle blossomed in 2022-23 and have joined the ranks of the best in the league. Erik Karlsson had an unbelievable year and now wears a new uniform. Goaltenders Linus Ullmark, Connor Hellebuyck, and Ilya Sorokin were brick walls last season and seek to continue their dominance this year.

The only thing better than watching NHL hockey on TV is seeing hockey live in person. Hockey is known for a fast pace and an electric atmosphere, elements most exciting from inside the arenas. Live hockey means the whir of skates slicing the ice, the goal horn piercing the air, and holding your breath during overtime. Now that the 2023-24 season is underway, we’re taking a look at must-see NHL games. Which games should you mark on your calendar to check out in person? Here are five highly anticipated match-ups.

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5. Pittsburgh Penguins @ Chicago Blackhawks — Feb. 15, 2024, 7:30 p.m. CST

If you couldn’t make it to see the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Opening Night Oct. 10, not to fear. The Penguins will be in Chicago on Feb. 15, 2024. Considering the Blackhawks are in the midst of a rebuild, and the Penguins have retooled after they missed the playoffs last year for the first time in 17 years but have still gotten off to a slow start, what makes this a highly anticipated match-up? It features 2023’s first-overall draft pick Connor Bedard facing off against 2005 first-overall draft pick Sidney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby has been a mainstay in the Penguins’ lineup since 2005, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history in 2007 (Connor McDavid now holds that record). In 2022-23, Crosby proved he still has it by scoring 33 goals, just behind teammate Jake Guentzel’s team-leading 36 goals. Guentzel had ankle surgery in the offseason. The winger hasn't been as electric as last year, but he's finding his groove. The Penguins added exciting talent over the offseason: Ryan Graves and Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson on the blue line, and Noel Acciari, Vinnie Hinostroza and Matt Nieto for speed and forward depth. The Penguins have been underwhelming so far, but it's early enough that they could turn things around.

Eighteen-year-old Connor Bedard was born about two weeks before 36-year-old Sidney Crosby was drafted by the Penguins in 2005. Bedard is a generational talent, and he’s putting Chicago hockey back on the map. The NHL community expects a big rookie year for Bedard, and he’s favored to win the Calder Trophy. Bedard is a dynamic player, known for speed, a wicked shot, and a deceptive style. He scored 71 goals in the WHL last year. Making the leap to the NHL at the young age of 18 is no easy feat. Even without an official Blackhawks captain this year, Bedard is receiving veteran leadership from players like Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, and Taylor Hall. 

One team is fighting through a rebuild, while the other is fighting through a retool. The Blackhawks have a few more years before they can dream of being a top team again, and the Penguins are taking one last swing in the Crosby era. This match-up is a must-see. The Penguins and Blackhawks face off Feb. 6, 2024, in Chicago. 

Key Penguins: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Erik Karlsson
Underrated Penguin: Ryan Graves
Penguins’ X-Factor: Tristan Jarry

Key Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, Taylor Hall, Andreas Athanasiou, Seth Jones, Wyatt Kaiser
Underrated Blackhawk: Taylor Raddysh
Blackhawks’ X-Factor: Lukas Reichel