It’s not very often a rookie gets to score his first NHL goal in a marquis matchup between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the league. It’s rarer still when that rookie gets to play on a line with two players who very well may end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. But before you go telling yourself how lucky this rookie must be -- watch him play -- and you’ll see that he has earned every minute of his ice time and belongs where he is, on the No. 1 line of the No. 1 team in the NHL.
Brandon Saad is the type of player coaches dream of. Big, fast, fearless -- willing to skate to traffic and go to the net. But it’s not all offense with the youngster. He’s as comfortable and confident in his own end of the rink as he is taking it hard to the blue paint. I remember talking to Saad when he got called up to the Blackhawks in the playoffs against Phoenix last year. I asked him what kind of advice he had gotten and he mentioned a name that may be familiar with Blackhawk fans. He told me his coach in the OHL, Greg Gilbert, said “The guys you are playing against are no different than you. They’re not stars, they’re players. Go out and play your game.”
Saad was the leader of that Saginaw Spirit team and Gilbert made him his team's captain. Gilbert won Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and Rangers and is one of the most underrated players that I have ever played with. There is no bigger fan of Saad than his old coach.
Saad’s time on the first line with Jonothan Toews and Marian Hossa may end when Dan Carcillo returns to the lineup. But the youngster from Pittsburgh has certainly left an impression on his new coach, and that impression will certainly be a lasting one.