What happened next was mesmerizing, from a Blackhawks perspective.
Saad kicked into high gear, blew past a helpless Washington defender and than buried a shot past Washington goaltender Braden Holtby, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.
Here’s what it looked like:
We’ve seen goals like that from Saad before, where he explodes past defensemen, using his speed to generate a scoring chance that few others would be able create.
He did it twice in one playoff series, the 2015 Western Conference Final against the Ducks:
Saad is experiencing some redemption to this season, similar to the one being enjoyed by Jonathan Toews, who had five points Sunday. Through 48 games, Saad has 15 goals and 12 assists, which isn’t far from his 82-game marks during the 2017-18 season of 18 goals and 17 assists. It’s coincided with a rebound in his shooting percentage numbers. Saad is converting on 12.9 percent of his shots this season, a massive leap over the 7.6 number that triggered his 2017-18 slump.
Saad’s on pace for about 25 goals and 20 assists, a 45-point season that would be significantly better than last season’s total, but still shy of the three straight 50-point seasons he posted, beginning in 2014-15.
But it’s always felt like Saad was a capable of a little bit more, hasn’t it? The second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft was tabbed as a “mini-Hossa” early in his career, possessing many of the same traits of the future Hall of Famer: an all-around, two-way game but with plenty of speed, strength and hands to produce at the offensive end as well. Saad may not have been expected to be a 40-goal scorer as Hossa was three times, but consistent 30-goal seasons seemed attainable for Saad. Instead, he’s only cracked 30 goals one time, and he did that while with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
And then Saad scores on a solo effort like one against the Capitals and the thoughts go to ... well, exactly what was pointed out on Twitter:
Saad doesn't do that often enough, but it's plays like that that remind you of what he's capable of.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) January 20, 2019
Well, you can see how easy it is to get frustrated with Saad if he can do that when he chooses.— Faxes From Uncle Dale (@RealFansProgram) January 20, 2019
And then thoughts drift over to Saad’s team. The aforementioned Toews is in the middle of a resurgent season, on pace to crack the 30-goal barrier that he hasn’t achieved since 2010-11. Patrick Kane is simply out of his mind, on pace for another 100-point season while playing perhaps the best hockey of his career. Alex DeBrincat is trashing any notions of a sophomore slump, on pace for a 41-goal season as of this writing.
It all clicked for Chicago on Sunday, as the Blackhawks dominated possession and the scoreboard during an 8-5 beatdown of the Capitals.
With all that talent on the team, with all those players having such incredible seasons, you can’t help but wonder ... why doesn’t it happen more often?