Game 5 of the Western Conference final was long on story lines. The first period dressed up as the 1980s for Halloween, treating us to five goals. Corey Crawford continued to polarize us with his up and down play, allowing an ugly go-ahead goal but bailing out the Hawks with at least one huge save in overtime. And in what could be his final season in the NHL, Michal Handzus played unlikely hero with the winning goal.
But the most important character in Game 5, the one who breathed life back into the Blackhawks, was Brandon Saad. The super sophomore had one of his best games as a pro, tallying a goal and two assists, plus a game-high seven shots. His best play of the night was this setup for the game winner in double OT. He shows veteran poise and hesitation here, waiting for a defensive breakdown, head up, before threading a perfect feed to an unmarked Handzus. And yeah, credit to the big man for kicking the puck to his skate and beating Jonathan Quick with a nice backhand:
Great organizations repeatedly find great players. Just like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar conveniently bloom when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg’s careers start to wind down in Detroit, the Hawks can feel confident they’ll contend for years with Teuvo Teravainen and Saad on the rise. Saad, the 43rd pick in the 2011 draft, flashed his offensive potential with 34 goals in his final 44 games at the junior level with Saginaw of the Ontario League. He’s a strong skater with soft hands and good size. The 47 points he scored in his first full NHL season, on the heels of finishing third in Calder voting the year prior, were just the beginning.
Yep, it looks like the Hawks have found another good one.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin