Saad shows flashes of his old self in Blackhawks' win

 
 
Updated 1/20/2019 4:22 PM
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  • Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) skates away as center Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad, center, celebrates with center Marcus Kruger (16) after his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Chicago.

    Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) skates away as center Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad, center, celebrates with center Marcus Kruger (16) after his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Chicago. Associated Press

It was a goal for the ages. Or, more accurately, a goal of ages past for Brandon Saad.

Saad opened the scoring in Sunday's 8-5 Blackhawks victory over Washington with a bulldozing, you're-not-taking-the-puck-from-me rush that left mouths agape across the United Center.

Saad's sensational individual effort began when he deftly avoided Tom Wilson in the neutral zone. Gathering speed, he split the defense of Madison Bowey and Lars Eller, then kept Bowey at bay with his left hand while controlling the puck with his right.

With Bowey in his wake and nobody but goaltender Braden Holtby in front of him, Saad pulled the puck to his forehand, snapped it off and sent it sailing into the net at 6:36 of the first period.

"WHAT AN EFFORT!" screamed NBC play-by-play man Mike "Doc" Emrick.

Coach Jeremy Colliton concurred, saying: "He has that. He's done that a few times this year. He just kind of holds a guy off, puts a guy on his back and carries him in the net. So hopefully he can gain some confidence from that."

The play was vintage Saad -- as in 2013, '14, '15 Saad. The Saad fans came to love and adore during two Stanley Cup title runs.

That Saad has been missing over long stretches since he returned in a trade with Columbus, but he clearly still has the skill, speed, power and sniping ability to be a difference-maker more often.

"Every shift. That'd be great," Colliton said. "But that's not the game. (We'd like to see him) do it more -- put yourself in that position more. Obviously we don't want him going 1-on-3 because that's not going to pay off over time.

"But he does have the capability to create offense by himself. He's so strong and he's skilled and he's willing to take the puck to the net."

Saad now has 15 goals on the season and 6 in his last 11 games.

Jokiharju sits:

Coach Jeremy Colliton elected to make rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju a healthy scratch for the third time this season. Slater Koekkoek took Jokiharju's place, doling out 6 hits and blocking 2 shots in 16½ minutes.

Colliton wants Jokiharju to develop properly and sitting him can be part of that process.

"It's a tough league," Colliton said. "We want to prepare these guys the best they can to be great players. Not just this year, but next year and the year after and the year after that.

"Part of that is getting the right base, so that's our focus right now."

Slap shots:

The Hawks scored a power-play goal for an eighth straight game Sunday when Patrick Kane connected at 3:45 of the third period. … Collin Delia allowed 5 goals on 39 shots but snapped his six-game losing streak. … Saturday's victory was the first time the Hawks won when allowing 5 or more goals since a 7-5 win at Arizona on Dec. 29, 2015. Andrew Desjardins scored twice. … Brent Seabrook had an assist, was a plus-2, had 4 shots on goal, 5 hits and 3 blocked shots in 17:28 of ice time vs. Washington.

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