Brandon Saad

Blackhawks 2019-20 season in review: Brandon Saad

Blackhawks 2019-20 season in review: Brandon Saad

The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Brandon Saad.

Brandon Saad's second go-around with the Blackhawks wasn't as smooth of a transition as both parties hoped it would be. And it didn't help that the trade to send Artemi Panarin to Columbus was controversial in itself.

To put it simply, Saad had an off season in Year 1 even though his possession numbers were among the NHL's best, recording only 18 goals and 35 points in 82 games. But you knew he was due for a bounce-back season after he finished with a career-low shooting percentage of 7.6 and had an expected goals rate of 26.3, according to Money Puck.

And that's exactly what happened.

In Year 2, Saad compiled 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points, falling six points shy of matching his career-high mark of 53, which he did twice in Columbus. His 23 goals also tied a personal best during his Blackhawks tenure.

Year 3 has easily been Saad's best since returning to Chicago. He has 21 goals and 12 assists for 33 points through 58 games and a career-high 15.0 shooting percentage. He was on pace to score 30 goals for the second time in his NHL career, but missed one month because of an ankle injury that threw a wrench into things.

"He's been so good for us all year," head coach Jeremy Colliton said in December. "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."

On a per-60-minute basis at even strength this season, Saad ranks No. 1 on the Blackhawks in expected goals for (3.08), scoring chances for (33.1) and high-danger chances for (13.1), according to Natural Stat Trick. He was arguably their best forward before he got injured in December and Saad felt this was the best version of himself, too.

"I try to improve every year and coming into this year I felt pretty confident," Saad said. "But I think on a consistent basis, this is some of the best hockey I've ever played."

Saad’s name was being thrown around ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline, but it was difficult to see the Blackhawks moving him unless they were blown away by an offer. He has one year left on his contract after this season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career next summer.

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on the NHL’s salary cap for years to come, which will certainly affect pending UFAs both this year and next, most notably. Saad falls into that category, so you wonder what his future could hold beyond this season.

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NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad leads the way, Blackhawks take series lead over Blues

NHL 20 sim: Brandon Saad leads the way, Blackhawks take series lead over Blues

Game 3: Blackhawks vs. Blues (April 13)

Result: Blackhawks win 4-3 in OT (Blackhawks lead series 2-1)

Three Stars:
 
First Star: Brandon Saad (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG, +1)
Second Star: Olli Maatta (1 G, +2)
Third Star: Ryan Carpenter (1 G, +1, 3 SOG)

It was the Brandon Saad Show once again for the Blackhawks in a comeback thriller over the Blues. After sleepwalking through the first period, Saad factored in on three Blackhawks goals to come back and tie the game. Olli Maatta provided some offense from the blue line, and Ryan Carpenter played hero with the overtime winner as Chicago’s bottom-six added three shots. 

Scoring Summary:

First Period

12:07 Ryan O'Reilly (J. Schwartz) 1-0

Second Period

7:21 PP Zach Sanford (C. Parayko, R. Thomas) 2-0

16:04 Jordan Kyrou (A. Steen, O. Sundqvist (3-0)

Third Period

0:25 Brandon Saad (A. DeBrincat, D. Keith) 3-1

15:26 Olli Maatta (B. Saad, C. Murphy) 3-2

19:44 Jonathan Toews (B. Saad, A. DeBrincat) 3-3

Overtime

12:06 Ryan Carpenter (D. Keith, M. Highmore) 4-3

RELATED: 2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Flyers

Box score:

Shots on goal

St. Louis: 33

Chicago: 32

While depth was the key contributor in a comeback win in Game 2, Game 3’s biggest factor was the Blackhawks’ top line. Saad, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat have now combined for 16 points in three games, including six points in Game 3. It was a tale of two games; the Blues dominated the first two periods, but the Blackhawks took over from the get go in the third with Saad’s goal just 25 seconds in.
 
Goalies

Jordan Binnington 28/32 (.875 SV%)

Corey Crawford: 30/33 (.909 SV%)

Crawford was hung out to dry on all three Blackhawks goals. Defensive breakdowns gave him no help, but following the Blues’ power play tally, he shut the door and looked like the two-time Stanley Cup winner he is. Binnington didn’t get help from his defense on the first two goals, but the game-tying tally came with under a minute left and was one he’d like to have back. 
 
Power play

St. Louis: 1-2

Chicago: 0-0

Through three games, the Blackhawks have just one power play but still find themselves up 2-1 in the series. If that trend changes at some point, they could find themselves in a great spot. The Blackhawks penalty kill continued to struggle, surrendering yet another power play goal.
 
Notable Blackhawks performances

Toews (goal)

DeBrincat (2 assists)

Duncan Keith (2 assists)

Keith looked like the two-time Norris Trophy winner we’ve seen in years past. He chipped in on two goals, including the overtime winner. DeBrincat and Toews continued their torrid playoff pace, combining for three points while providing the dominant line the Hawks need, with Saad.

Patrick Kane was held off the scoresheet for the second straight game, and has just one point in the series. While the top line is buzzing now, the Hawks need Showtime to start if they want to keep pace with the West’s top seed.

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Will Brandon Saad be traded by Blackhawks again? He hopes not

Will Brandon Saad be traded by Blackhawks again? He hopes not

DALLAS — Brandon Saad knows what it’s like to be traded. He’s been moved twice in his NHL career — once from Chicago to Columbus and then again from Columbus to Chicago. Both of those deals were made in the summer, though, and they were also unexpected.

With the NHL trade deadline on Monday at 2 p.m., Saad knows his name is out there and admitted the possibility of being dealt is on his mind.

"A little bit," Saad said following a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Sunday. "That's part of the business, right? Love it here in Chicago but it is what it is. You wait for tomorrow and there's always rumors floating, but at the end of the day, you just focus on hockey games and winning here with the Blackhawks and see what happens."

The Blackhawks aren’t necessarily shopping Saad, but they are listening to offers. The return would have to start with at least a first-round pick for the Blackhawks to even consider that possibility, and it’s unclear whether anybody has gotten close to meeting their demands.

What makes Saad an attractive trade piece is the fact he has one year left on his contract after this season at a $6 million cap hit. General managers across the NHL have been reluctant to give up first-round selections for rentals, and it’s hard to blame them. Giving up a king's ransom for pending unrestricted free agents, historically, backfires more often than not.

Jason Zucker, Blake Coleman and, most recently, Ondrej Kase were all moved and fetched first-rounders because they have term left on their contract. Chris Kreider and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, both of whom are at the top of TSN’s trade bait list, have not been traded with less than 20 hours to go until the deadline and you have to wonder how much that has to do with contending teams not being willing to meet the high price tag for a rental.

The Boston Bruins reportedly expressed interest in Saad, but that was before they acquired Kase. The Edmonton Oilers have also checked in, but would they be willing to part ways with their first-rounder? How about the Colorado Avalanche?

GM Stan Bowman's phone line is going to be busy in the coming hours as teams start to put together their final offers, but Saad is hoping he remains with the Blackhawks.

"It's just part of the business, right?" Saad said. "At the end of the day, you're a hockey player, so you're going to play hard for whoever you're with and take it as it comes. The other ones were in the summertime, so I've never dealt with it at the deadline, so that's always a new experience. But hopefully I'm here in Chicago."

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