Brandon Saad has rarely been afraid to bring that hard-charging game.
The forward that Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews often referred to as “fearless” last season, Saad took strides through this regular season, bringing that bull-in-a-china-shop mentality with him.
And on Wednesday, when the Blackhawks needed it most, he may have been at his best.
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Saad had a goal and two assists, the second one setting up Michal Handzus’ game-winning goal, to play a big part in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-4 double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Saad was part of a second line with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane that put up big points and showed great chemistry from the start. But the 21-year-old had a memorable night, arguably the best of his career.
“Looking at him, he looked like he wanted to be the guy, the guy that makes the difference in the hockey game. He did,” Michal Rozsival said. “He was strong on the puck. He was skating. He was being physical. He did everything, you know, through to the end to help us win the hockey game.”
Saad said he’s always looking to push himself.
“Yeah, you always look for new challenges,” he said. “And any time you can elevate your game and produce and help the team win, that obviously helps out with your confidence and moving up.”
Saad was pretty consistent for the Blackhawks this season, excluding a late regular-season stretch when he was coming off an upper-body injury. Saad was a healthy scratch around that time but didn’t take it personally. He’s been especially noticeable the past two games, a difference from last spring when he struggled and remained goal-less until the Stanley Cup Final.
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Game 5 was a breakthrough for Saad, though, as the forward played that fearless game Toews has talked of in the past.
“I don’t know if I can think of a game that he played better than last night. He was unbelievable,” Toews said. “That’s what we need to find a way to win against this team, is guys like that stepping up, and Saader did it last night.”
The Saad-Shaw-Kane combination gave the Blackhawks a strong second-line threat, something they’ve lacked through this series. Saad was as big a part of that as any of the three. He provided a drive-by force that the Blackhawks have seen at times, but not often enough. Saad was once called the man-child on a regular basis. His game is showing more of the former than the latter lately.
“He has that ability to play a high-level game, almost like an impact player. Not too many guys make an impact like he did last night,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He had one of those games you’ll always remember.”