SAN JOSE, Calif. – Brandon Saad has come oh-so close to scoring this season.
The Blackhawks’ rookie forward had some of his best chances against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, and coach Joel Quenneville took notice.
“He had a special game. He was a monster around the puck,” he said. “He hounded it back and down and protected it extremely well and was a threat off the rush. I really enjoyed his game. And I expect him to keep getting better.”
That first goal has eluded Saad to this point, but it’s not for lack of trying. And considering how he’s blended in with top-liners Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, a goal, and other points, are certain to come.
Saad got his chance at the top line when feisty forward Daniel Carcillo suffered a right knee injury in the season opener. But his abilities have helped him hang on to that spot. Saad was fine against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night, and Quenneville said he would’ve been the third to go in the shootout had it gotten that far. But Saad’s breakthrough game was the night before in Vancouver, when he had a team-leading four shots on goal and drew two Canucks penalties.
Toews has been impressed.
“He’s hungry, he’s playing hard and playing fearless,” Toews said. “He’s showing he’s gaining confidence with the puck. With Hoss and I, we’re getting better and better as a line. We’re keeping the puck down low more, and Saader is showing his work ethic. He’s hungry for that first one. We keep working as a line, he’s going to get it and we’re going to get it going as well.”
Saad has been focused on playing a certain way throughout his early NHL career: just keep it simple. There’s no need for the20-year-old to do anything fancy or over the top. His work ethic, drive and determination to crash the net has earned his teammates’ and coaches approval. Even without that first goal, Quenneville said there’s no need to move Saad because he’s doing everything else right.
Still, the way Saad is playing, that goal can’t be too far away.
“He’s had some really good games here,” Quenneville said. “The finish hasn’t been there yet for him, but at the same time we like what they’re creating. At some point, things are going to start going in the net for him.”
* This schedule has been in intense for the Blackhawks but they have to like how they’ve played through it thus far. At 7-0-2 the Blackhawks have collected 16 of a possible 18 points to start the season. It has them atop the Western Conference as of now. But even more important, the Blackhawks are pushing to get everything they can out of these games, including eking out that shootout victory on Saturday.
“The meaning of those points is going to be tremendous at the end,” Quenneville said. “So let’s get on the right side of it.”
* Dave Bolland was out of Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, but coach Joel Quenneville is hoping the second-line center can come back Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks. “We’ll have a couple days off, and hopefully he’ll be able to play that night.”