CHICAGO — If Monday was the night to heap praise on Victor Hedman, tonight was the night to celebrate another young star: Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad.
Saad scored the winning goal in Chicago’s 2-1 victory over the Lightning, giving the ‘Hawks the goal they so badly needed to even the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece.
The play was Saad at his best, as the 22-year-old grabbed a loose puck off a faceoff, drove down below the goal line, then hard across the front of the net, ultimately slipping a backhand through the legs of Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It wasn’t the first time these playoffs we’ve seen that kind of burst…
Veteran forward Brad Richards spoke glowingly of Saad’s skating ability.
“It looks like he’s just out for a Sunday stroll sometimes,” said Richards. “He’s three strides and he’s beating people down the ice. He takes it to the net there because he’s so big and strong. It’s a good asset to have on your team.”
And just for good measure, here’s coach Joel Quenneville: “He’s fast, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s dangerous.”
Watching Saad during these playoffs, it’s no wonder there’s been speculation he could be an offer-sheet target this offseason.
But that’s a problem for later. For now, the ‘Hawks are only happy to see the Pittsburgh native scoring big goal after big goal, even if he is adding to his bargaining power in the process.
“He was good at the start of the season, but a different level right now,” said Richards. “As you go deep into the playoffs, a lot of players have to get to different levels, and he’s done that for us.
“He’s been better than you could ever hope for.”