Brandon Saad: Playing for Blackhawks was 'huge for my career'


Brandon Saad: Playing for Blackhawks was 'huge for my career'

It was no secret that the Blackhawks would be forced to make some tough decisions last offseason following their third Stanley Cup victory in six years.

As first witnessed by Chicago in 2010, the salary cap simply makes it close to impossible for teams to bring back the same roster as the previous season.

Brandon Saad became part of that salary cap casualty in 2015, which was surprising for everyone, after being shipped to Columbus in a package that included Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano. It was an especially emotional time for the former Blackhawks winger, who was still just 22 years old at the time of the trade.

He went from enjoying the top of the mountain for the second time in his young career to moving conferences, and now finds himself trying to lift the Blue Jackets from out of the basement. But he credits his time with the Blackhawks to have the ability to overcome different levels of adversity such as this.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

"It's meant a lot," Saad said of his time in Chicago during the All-Star Game Media Day on Friday. "To go there and play for an organization like that with (Jonathan Toews) and (Marian Hossa) there, and not just being around them, but getting to play on their same line and learn from them every day with guys that have done it all, it's pretty special. It's been huge for my career.

"Obviously the winning helps, but to be a young guy and be around those type of players that teach you the right habits and how to conduct yourself on and off the ice, it's been huge for my career and something I'm still learning, but those are two special guys there."

Like any teammate who shared special memories with a certain group of players, Saad has kept an eye on the Blackhawks' success this season, including their franchise-record 12-game winning streak and the historic season being turned in by Hart Trophy front-runner Patrick Kane.

"It's impressive," Saad said. "They've got a great team. (Kane's) surrounded by great players, and he leads the way there. He's a special player and to see the things he's done, it's really not too surprising because, being around him for a few years, you see his habits and his skill, it was only a matter of time (before) he was going to break through. He's a world-class player. He's fun to watch even being on the other side now. I wish nothing but the best for him.

[MORE: TSN poll: Coaches vote Patrick Kane as NHL's best player]

"It's something that you follow a little bit. It's a busy schedule, but any time you're playing against them or you go the night before, you grab dinner, and things like that. I've been following them, they're having great years and I look forward to seeing them."

For a large portion of the first half of the season, the Blackhawks felt the absence of Saad as they struggled to fill the void at left wing on the top line. They tried several options before Andrew Shaw seized the opportunity and hasn't looked back since.

Still, Kane, who hadn't seen Saad since the trade before this weekend at the All-Star festivities, knows it's not easy to replace what Saad brings to the table on and off the ice.

"Absolutely we miss him," Kane said. "Saader is a great guy. He's someone that brought some comedy to the room and he was also a great hockey player too, so of course you're going to miss him. You realize it's a part of the business and you have to, I guess, move on with certain roster changes, but I think you look at the chemistry (Toews) had with Hossa and Saader, maybe for a while there we were looking for that guy. It looks like (Shaw) is that guy now and he's done a good job of filling in for that spot lately, so hopefully that will continue too."

[RELATED: Former Blackhawks F John Scott speaks out on NHL, All-Star selection process]

Saad is on pace to set career highs in multiple scoring categories, and is just four goals away from tying his personal best 23 goals, set last season with, 32 games remaining. He's been the leader Columbus has needed through trying times, and is producing on the ice as well with 35 points in 50 games, a main reason why he's earned his first All-Star selection this season.

And while his role is different than it was with the Blackhawks, Saad is taking advantage of his new leadership position.

"In Chicago, with the superstars they have there you can kind of fall behind them and do your own thing," he said. "In Columbus, you're going to be a leader and take that role and get more minutes. The biggest thing is bringing that consistency and trying to lead by example for the younger guys because even though I'm young we have a lot of younger guys than me."

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?