Saad the latest surprise youngster for Hawks

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Saad the latest surprise youngster for Hawks

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Brandon Saad stood in front of the biggest media throng he's seen since he got to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. The 18-year-old was grinning from ear to ear after the Blackhawks signed him to a three-year entry-level deal, the words "awesome," "exciting" and "unbelievable" dominating his answers.

Yes, the kid is signed. And the kid, at least for now, is staying. Because the kid has earned it.

Saad's hard work has gotten him to this point, so the Blackhawks signed him to his deal which, according to capgeek.com, has an annual cap hit of 795,000. The Blackhawks have recognized the youngster's talent since his rookie camp debut this summer, and general manager Stan Bowman said it's evident that Saad can play at this level.

"The competition has gone up each time and he's responded to the challenge. He's earned a spot," Bowman said in announcing Saad's deal. "He's excited to go and that's a good story for us. We put him in a position to succeed and he seized it."

Now Saad being a good player isn't a shock; he was pegged to be a first-round selection at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. But he didn't make the U.S. world junior team and a groin injury hampered him some last season with the Saginaw Spirit, and his stock dropped.

So he went in the second round instead. Fine. The Blackhawks took him, he took advantage of his training-camp audition and here he is: a teen-ager who will be on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in Dallas on Friday night. And if Saad used that second-round fall as motivation, it apparently worked.

"I fell in the draft, yeah, but it wasn't my decision," Saad said. "No matter what would've happened you have something to prove. It's a fresh start."

It's probably a lot fresher than he anticipated at this point of his young career. The Blackhawks have had a few young surprises out of recent camps -- defenseman Nick Leddy was last year's at age 19 -- and Saad's story gets added to that lore.

"There's always a guy every year who jumps ahead higher than expected. We've seen it here," Bowman said. "His talent is there. We're the beneficiaries of that. He's 18 years old and plays a pro game already. He's got great years ahead of him."

So how long will Saad stay with the Blackhawks this season? It depends. Saad could play a few games -- up to nine -- with the Blackhawks and then could be headed back to Saginaw. But if he makes a big impact it's going to be hard for the Blackhawks to send him packing.

That will all play itself out. Whether he's here for a few games or for the season, Saad is going to enjoy it.

After all, he's earned it.

"It's sinking in, yeah, a little bit," Saad said. "But I'm still just loving being here. It's going to be awesome."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks blank Bruins; Bulls fall in Atlanta

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.