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updated: 6/2/2014 12:19 AM

Saad ramps up his game during 2014 postseason

Saad ramps up his game during 2014 postseason

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  • Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, right, celebrates with Patrick Sharp on Sunday after Sharp's second-period goal.

      Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, right, celebrates with Patrick Sharp on Sunday after Sharp's second-period goal.
    Associated Press

 
 

Scoreless in his last 12 regular-season games, which cost him his first 20-goal campaign.

An upper-body injury that caused him to miss three games in March.

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A healthy scratch with four games left before the start of the best time of the year for a hockey player: playoff hockey.

Brandon Saad, sad?

Sadly for Blackhawks opponents, no.

When Saad opened the scoring in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles at the United Center on Sunday night, it gave the second-year winger 6 goals in 19 playoff games this season. Saad took a pass from behind the net from Patrick Kane and one-timed a quick shot into the net from a near-impossible angle just outside the crease.

A smiling Saad went to a knee, slid on ice and pumped his arm.

Happy Saad.

What a difference a year of playoff hockey makes. In his rookie season a year ago, Saad tallied just 1 goal and 5 assists (23 games) during the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup-winning run.

When Saad set up Patrick Sharp's go-ahead, power-play goal with 1:35 left in the second period, putting the home team up 4-3, it gave Saad 10 assists.

His 16 points suggest "veteran" play from the guy who's just 21 years old, who the Blackhawks stole in the second round of the 2011 draft, who's emerged as a player coach Joel Quenneville can confidently play on any of his top-three lines.

"I think it helps players whether you get playoff experience, big-game settings, big moments, quality ice time, important shifts," Quenneville said when asked about Saad before Game 7. "You get more comfortable in that situation. I think a good illustration of how he's progressed in this series is him getting -- I don't want to say attention -- quality ice and taking advantage of it. We like the progress. A young kid that has his upside is definitely big."

After being put on a line with Kane and Andrew Shaw in Game 5 against the Kings, Saad flourished along with his linemates.

Happy times. Fun times.

"Looking back, each game's been more exciting," Saad said.

Game 7 -- which went to overtime with the score tied 4-4, before the Kings prevailed 5-4 -- delivered. Saad was hoping his playoff experience and his team's would pay off.

"It's huge," he said. "Going through it in the past makes you believe, knowing you can do it. Going through that experience is something you can use going into (Game 7)."

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