Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself


Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, here we are again. Or maybe we should say, here the Blackhawks are again.

For all the concerns at the end of the regular season, when the goals and the victories were in short supply, the Blackhawks are heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past six seasons.

Call it determination. Call it hitting their stride at the right time. Regardless, the Blackhawks had to go through a tough Anaheim Ducks team to get there, and they made a statement with their 5-3 victory in Game 7 on Saturday night.

But enough of us prattling on here; we know you’re tired. So let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Western Conference final triumph over the Ducks.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks cruise past Ducks, headed to Stanley Cup Final]

1. Jonathan Toews leads in every way possible. Toews just about led the Blackhawks to a Game 5 victory with his two late-regulation goals in that one. And he was why the Blackhawks got off to a tremendous start in Game 7, scoring the team’s first two goals. There’s plenty to say about Toews — we’ll save that for another story — but the postseason is about top players being leaders off, but especially on, the ice. The Blackhawks got that with Toews.

2. Brandon Saad is making a name for himself. And soon enough, Saad will be making some serious cash for himself, thanks in part to his postseason. Saad added another goal on Saturday, his sixth of the playoffs, and he drew a penalty with his speed on a breakaway short-handed attempt in the second period. Saad got his chance to be a top-line guy as a rookie; he’s just kept earning his time there since.

3. Duncan Keith is still OK. Another game, another (nearly) 28 minutes of ice time, another two assists and another great performance for Keith. About midway through this series we stopped asking how the minutes and physical play were affecting the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen; three of the four, fine, but it was obvious Keith was feeling no effects. Told he looked “spry” following the game Keith asked, “What does spry mean?” All kidding aside, he looks like he’s ready to keep logging those minutes and playing well through them.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get a Duncan Keith jersey right here]

4. Don’t forget about Brent Seabrook. The Ducks had their second goal (from Corey Perry) and momentum midway through the third period. Then the Blackhawks got a power play, and Seabrook, who comes up big this time of year, scored a power-play goal to restore a three-goal lead. Seabrook gets overshadowed by Keith a lot, but there’s no doubt he’s been a big contributor the past few postseasons, especially with critical goals.

5. Mental toughness remains. Whenever there’s a Game 7, you never know how it’s going to go. The Ducks were back home, where they had lost just one previous game this postseason — to the Blackhawks. They had lost just once in regulation this postseason — to the Blackhawks. Still, would this be the year the Ducks broke through? It wasn’t, mainly because the Blackhawks have that will at this time of year, know how to win and wasted no time in getting up on the Ducks in Game 7. Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Commend the guys’ perseverance, finding different ways through different challenges.”

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?