Brandon Saad had three goals (two Sunday) and 12 assists (one Sunday) in 14 games in March. | AP
Updated: May 2, 2013 6:31AM
DETROIT — Coach Joel Quenne-
ville shrugged when asked whether winger Brandon Saad has forced his way into the discussion for the Calder Trophy — awarded to the NHL’s top rookie — in the last month.
‘‘Who knows? I know we like the way he plays,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s in the right place on the right line, and he looks like he belongs there.’’
Considering that line is the top line on the top team in the Western Conference, that’s awfully high praise. The ‘‘Man-Child,’’ as the 20-year-old is known in the Blackhawks’ dressing room, has looked like anything but a rookie all season, and now he has the statistics to prove it.
After a frustrating first six weeks, during which he had only three goals and one assist to show for all his hard work in the corners, all his hustle on both ends of the ice and all the scoring chances he generated, Saad posted three goals and 12 assists in 14 games in March, including his two-goal, one-assist effort in the Hawks’ 7-1 victory Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.
‘‘I haven’t really changed much, just the bounces are going in,’’ he said. ‘‘I had good chances there early, and they weren’t really going my way. But they seem to be going in now.’’
Saad scored his first goal at 3:21 of the first period, taking a nice pass from Michael Frolik and making an even nicer move to beat goalie Jimmy Howard. In the second period, he outraced defenseman Brian Lashoff to a loose puck deep in the Red Wings’ zone right off the faceoff, beating Jonas Gustavsson just eight seconds after setting up a goal by Jonathan Toews.
Saad continues to play beyond his years in terms of skill, physical play and defensive awareness and continues to amaze his center.
‘‘He improves every single game,’’ Toews said. ‘‘I think that’s what says the most. You can talk about his skill all day, how fearless he is in the puck areas . . . but he’s one of those guys that’s determined to make a difference every night. He doesn’t want to just contribute once in a while. He’s out there creating plays and says, ‘You know what? If nobody else is doing it, then I’ll be the guy.’ You like to have a guy with that attitude that’s fearless and who’s going to bring something to the table every night.’’