Brandon Saad just keeps adding to his rookie resume of great moments. And he had one of his biggest at the right time on Friday night.
Saad tallied his first career shootout winner, and the Blackhawks clinched the Central Division in their 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks, who took the Central crown as soon as regulation ended, swept the regular-season series over the Wings for the first time since the 1976-77 season.
Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, who won their fourth consecutive game. It was the Blackhawks’ 15th division title in franchise history, and the first since the 2009-10 season, which culminated with a Stanley Cup.
Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 29 in regulation and overtime, and then four of five Wings in the shootout for his fourth victory over them this season. Crawford, who hadn’t started the past three games, said he didn’t feel right when he faced the St. Louis Blues in the shootout last week. He didn’t have that problem on Friday.
“I felt really good, actually,” said Crawford. “We watched some video and I was moving back too fast [last time]. I had more control and was able to move side to side pretty well.”
Saad also moved pretty well in the shootout. The rookie forward said he watched the Blackhawks’ previous shooters to get an idea of what to do. He focused on Toews, who wasn’t able to lift his shot past Jimmy Howard. Saad did the same type of move, but with elevation.
“I saw when Johnny made his move; if he got it up, he had him beat. So I just tried to do the same on the other side and it worked for me,” Saad said. “I’ve gotten a couple cracks at [the shootout]. Tonight it finally went in.”
Toews gave approval of Saad’s move.
“The new move, and a pretty one at that, too,” Toews said. “The kid’s got a lot of confidence, a lot of energy. He’s just got that sense about him that if he’s called upon, he gets a chance, he wants to be a difference maker. It’s a real good quality he has as a player. He’s been a big-time player for us, and proved it again tonight.”
Crawford was also big. While he’s had hiccups in recent starts, he’s been gold against the Red Wings throughout his career. Entering tonight’s game with a 10-2-0 record lifetime against them, Crawford added to it, even if it took him time to shake off the rust.
“There were maybe a couple of plays where I fumbled it behind the net, some other situations where I looked to the wrong side of a guy,” Crawford said. “But for the most part, I felt really good.”
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed.
“I thought he was great,” he said. “He was big in the net, found pucks, moved well and looked excellent in the shootout as well.”
The Blackhawks keep knocking off things on the 2013 checklist. They got into the postseason before any other NHL team did. They clinched another division title. They haven’t let up no matter what they’ve gotten this season, and Friday was another example of that.
“It’s easy to say, being in the position we’re in, that a team like Detroit would walk away with two points. But we want to keep working,” Toews said. “When you have the confidence to come back in games like that, that’s huge going into the playoffs.”