Patrick Kane is and always has been the driving force of the Blackhawks’ offense, but Brandon Saad has proven this season he’s become an important piece to that engine.
After going pointless in six straight, Saad has scored three times in his last two games and is up to 11 goals on the season, which ranks second on the team. His 19 points is good for fifth, but if you dig deeper into the numbers, Saad has been the top possession driver for the Blackhawks.
When Saad is on the ice during 5-on-5 play, the Blackhawks are controlling 52.2 percent the shot attempts, 51.6 percent of the scoring chances and 52.5 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
When he’s not on the ice, the Blackhawks are controlling 45.5 percent of the shot attempts, 43.8 percent of the scoring chances and 41 percent of the high-danger chances.
To take it a step further: On a per 60-minute basis during 5-on-5 action this season, no Blackhawks skater has been on the ice for more shot attempts for (64.2), scoring chances for (32.6) and high-danger chances for (14.2). His 2.9 expected goals for rate also ranks No. 1 on the team.
Good things are happening when No. 20 is on the ice.
"He's been so good for us all year," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "And sometimes he can be snake bit. He's just that type of player. He gets a lot of chances and it can be streaky for him. But regardless of him scoring, he's important for the team. But it's a boost when he puts it in the net."
It hasn't mattered where he's playing in the lineup, either.
Saad played all of October on the third line and was arguably the Blackhawks' best forward over that span before getting promoted to the first line, where he's remained ever since. They're getting the same player night in and night out, whether he's in a top-six or bottom-six role.
This is the Brandon Saad the Blackhawks were hoping to get when they reacquired him in the summer of 2017 from the Columbus Blue Jackets and he's finally doing it on a consistent basis, even if the production is coming in spurts.
"Yeah, I feel the same way," Saad said in response to whether he's playing the best hockey of his NHL career. "I try to improve every year and coming into this year I felt pretty confident. But I think on a consistent basis this is some of the best hockey I've ever played."
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