He's been known as "man child" since his emergence as a rookie with the Blackhawks in 2013.
But after another clutch postseason performance it may be time to drop the "child" out of Brandon Saad's nickname.
The 22-year-old Saad notched the biggest goal of his young career on Wednesday night, tallying the game-winner in Game 4 as the Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to even up the Stanley Cup Final at 2-2 before the series shifts back to Florida for Game 5 on Saturday evening.
With the game knotted up 1-1 in the third period, Saad took a pass from Patrick Kane after Brad Richards cleared the path for him to go hard to the net with a sneaky stick lift of Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, creating chaos in front of Lightning rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. After an initial save, the puck squirted back out to Saad, who found the back of the net with a quick backhand through the five-hole on Vasilevskiy, giving Chicago a 2-1 lead with just under 14 minutes remaining in the final frame.
The goal was Saad's eighth of the postseason, good for third on the team behind Jonathan Toews (10) and Kane (10).
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"He’s a fun player to watch," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "Seems like, I don’t know, what is he 21-years-old? He looks like a grown man out there. He takes the puck, tells everybody what he’s going to do with it and bulls people over and gets to that net either way. It’s nice to see him putting the puck in the net."
Saad's ability to bully his away into the slot wasn't the only thing that stood out to his teammates on his clutch goal.
Saad used his lightning-quick stride to grab a loose puck off the faceoff and drive the puck into Tampa Bay's Zone, creating the scoring opportunity for Chicago.
"It looks like he's just out for a Sunday stroll sometimes," Richards said. "He's three strides and he's beating people down the ice."
Richards, who didn't know much about Saad when he joined the Blackhawks as a free agent last summer, spoke glowingly of his teammate's performance.
"He just keeps getting better. When I first saw him this year, I didn’t know he was that good," Richards said. "But he’s way better now even than he was in September. Just growing up and getting confident. So powerful. I’ve never seen such a young kid so even-keel. I don’t think anything bothers him."
While Saad's goal will show up on the box score, it was a play that he made late in the game that won't get much notoriety but may have saved the night for Chicago.
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With the Lightning sending an extra-attacker to try to get the equalizer in the final two minutes of the third period, Saad was in position to make a diving block of a slapshot from the point, letting more time tick off the clock to help the Blackhawks stave off a late push from the Lightning.
"He's one of those guys that sacrifices himself to do the right things and to be consistent at it," Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins said. "It's pretty special when you put that all together in a player. He's the total package. I mean it sounds kind of cheesy, but he does. Big goal but just a huge block too.That block with 20, 30 seconds left or whatever it was there. Huge."
Saad's remarkable postseason play has given head coach Joel Quenneville the ability to use him in key situations.
"He’s been great," Quenneville said. "I love his game tonight. A great power move to the net. He gives us speed, I can use him in all situations.
"He’s fast, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s dangerous. Very good performance."