CHICAGO – At 6 feet 1 and now sporting a freshly straggled playoff beard with hair creeping down to his shoulders, Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad doesn’t look like he would get carded at a bar, much less like someone who just turned 21 in October.
“He’s still young, believe it or not,” winger Bryan Bickell said.
But all that matters for the Blackhawks is Saad isn’t showing his youth. After stringing together several solid performances in these Stanley Cup playoffs and tallying five assists in the Blackhawks’ first seven games, Saad finally lit the lamp — twice — in Chicago’s 4-1 victory in Game 2, the first goal lighting Saad’s face with a bright smile of relief afterward.
“It’s easy to talk about keep battling through it, but to finally get one feels good,” Saad said. “You have to keep rolling now.”
Saad’s first goal came just seconds after the Blackhawks failed to score on the power play in the second period. Bickell found Saad in the slot and Saad fired a shot past Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead at 19 minutes, 4 seconds in the second period. Saad’s second goal showcased his speed as he won a race against Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a loose puck in the Wild zone that Saad tucked away into an empty net at 18:37.
To Saad’s teammates, this type of breakout seemed inevitable.
“I keep telling him every night he’s a monster with that puck,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “When he’s on his game, he keeps his feet moving through traffic and he’s slippery. For his size and power, he’s able to somehow get around guys and keep the puck on his stick.
“He’s making some great plays. When he plays like that, he’s opening up room for everyone else.”
Saad has had room to flourish on the Blackhawks’ third line in the playoffs, anchoring that line while allowing coach Joel Quenneville to keep his big guns of Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on the top two lines. Saad said it also helped going through last year’s playoffs, when he scored one goal in 23 games.
“There’s a lot more excitement and passion through the playoffs,” Saad said. “Everyone brings their ‘A’ game and energy to the table.”
And right now, Quenneville would lump Saad in that last group.
“It was certainly nice to see him score,” Quenneville said. “But the way he was playing, we’ll take it whether he has production or not.”