Rookie forward Brandon Saad making most of his opportunity with Blackhawks
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org March 18, 2013 8:30PM
Updated: March 18, 2013 11:53PM
DENVER — Brandon Saad still is playing the same high-paced, aggressive, two-way style that entrenched him on the Blackhawks’ top line early in the season. The only thing that’s different lately is he’s finally getting rewarded for his effort.
The 20-year-old rookie has a goal and seven assists in his last six games and is tied for sixth in the NHL in rookie scoring with 13 points (four goals, nine assists).
“I think I’ve been playing the same way, it’s just that the points are coming,” Saad said. “With [Patrick Sharp] out, I’ve been getting some power-play time, too, things like that. But it’s just been clicking a little bit. I don’t think I’ve changed anything in my game, it’s just coming along.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has been pleased with Saad’s play from his debut in the second game of the season — even though he was pointless in his first eight games and had just three goals and zero assists through his first 18 games — and is glad to see him finally show up on the stat sheet regularly.
“Early on in the season, he didn’t have any production at all to show for what he was doing, [but] I thought that line was dangerous every night,” Quenneville said. “Eventually, they start going in for you. He sees plays and protects well. He can do it himself, but he’s got a couple of guys he can give it to that can finish, so it’s been a real good line for us.”
Those guys, of course, are Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Saad models his game after the two-way standouts, and playing alongside them has only hastened his development.
“I think I’ve always been a two-way player, but playing with those guys and seeing the type of player they are, it makes me work even harder,” Saad said.
The trio has been red-hot lately, combining for nine goals in the previous six games.
“You gain that chemistry as you go along,” Toews said. “We want to keep building off that. We know we can be even better than we have been.”
For the third consecutive game, Brandon Bollig was on the fourth line Monday while Daniel Carcillo was scratched. Bollig had a strong offensive game at Columbus, with four shots, and saw a season-high of nearly 10 minutes during the 8-1 blowout victory at Dallas.
“There isn’t production, but I like the way he’s playing,” Quenneville said.
Quenneville said he thinks Bollig can be more than just an enforcer.
“When he came up last year, we noticed how well he could play the game,” Quenneville said. “He did a nice job of giving us a physical presence, as well. I thought his position awareness in all zones was surprisingly effective, and he always did the right thing.”