Saad still searching for first playoff goal
May, 22, 2013
By Scott Powers
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks' Brandon Saad has one point in eight playoff games.CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks rookie forward Brandon Saad is hoping for No. 11 to be his lucky number again.
Saad scored his first career NHL goal in his 11th regular season game. Now entering his 11th NHL playoff game, he and the Blackhawks are looking for him to notch his first career playoff goal.
Despite Saad's playoff scoring drought, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has spoken highly of Saad's recent play. Saad struggled in the opening-round series with the Minnesota Wild, but he's rediscovered his form and has been creating chances in faster-paced games against the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's almost exactly like we said [Tuesday] and we said at the start of the year, he doesn't have the production to reflect the way he's been playing," Quenneville said after Wednesday's practice. "We haven't minded the way he's been playing. He doesn't have the offense to reflect that. Stay with it. He's coming off a real good game. Hopefully, you get a little production and then maybe get a little more confidence in the scoring area."
The opportunities have been there in the past three games. Saad had four shots on goal in Game 1 and five in Game 2. He had two shots on net in Game 3 and nearly had a spectacular goal in the first period when he put the puck around the Red Wings' Brendan Smith on the rush and tried to score 5-hole on goaltender Jimmy Howard. Howard made an even better stop, and Saad stayed off the scoreboard.
Saad is happier with his performance, but he's not satisfied.
"I think the last couple games against Detroit I played pretty well," said Saad, who is a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist. "I've been battling. You've got to find the net and get goals out there.
"You've just got to work harder. They're not going in for a reason, so you've always got to pick up the battle level and compete level and get to the net."
Saad and Jonathan Toews have both gone scoreless in the playoffs after combining for 33 regular-season goals. Toews recently said a scoring slump can affect a player psychologically, and Saad agreed.
"You think about it, especially when the games are that tight," Saad said. "One goal can make a big difference. You hit a couple posts or the team hits a couple posts. That could be the difference in the game. It's a little frustrating at times. But at the same time, we get those bounces and we have the lead and the win. You just go to keep sticking with the program and doing the little things."
Quenneville made some recent changes in his top two lines to jumpstart the Blackhawks' offense. Saad moved from the first line to the second line for much of Game 3, and Patrick Sharp went from the second line to the first line. They practiced Wednesday with Sharp on the first line and Saad on the second line.
Quenneville said he has had faith in Saad on the team's top lines all season because of the way he's consistently played.
"He's a good kid," Quenneville said. "You got to compliment him on his approach. He's very consistent in his demeanor for everything. I think he's played comparable all year long in that situation with top guys and against top guys. That matchup is something not too many first-year players are seeing game-in, game-out, strong guys, big guys.
"That consistency in his demeanor, in his approach is a compliment to the type of person he is and the way he prepares himself. I think the challenge is the same thing. It's expedited come playoff time -- the focus on top players and lines. There's not a lot of room. I think he's finding room."