Brandon Saad gets opportunity to break out with new line
Bumped up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad may finally get his opportunity to shine as expected.
Before the 2014-15 season began, many were expecting a breakout campaign for Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract before he becomes a restricted free agent, the expectation was that the Hawks were going to have to pay a pretty hefty price in order to retain the services of the 22-year-old forward.
While that could very well still be the case, we haven't seen the type of consistency from Brandon Saad that was so widely expected before the season began. Although 11 points in 17 games isn't exactly an output to shake your head at too much, he's only found the back of the net twice on the year. With Patrick Sharp out for an extended period of time, Saad is a player that the Hawks need to step up and find consistency, if they're going to do it as a team, which has been an issue early on.
Coming off of a 47-point, 19-goal campaign, Saad has 11 in 17 and holds a minus-3 rating for the season to this point. His possession figures have fluctuated quite a bit, leaving him at a Corsi% of about 53 to date. You can certainly look at his lack of a consistent line as a source of that fluctuation, as well as his limited goal output through the first near-quarter of the season. His current situation, however, could help to mitigate that inconsistency and lead to him getting on the stat sheet with more regularity.
New lines were introduced at practice on Saturday, featuring the following groupings:
|Brandon Saad||Jonathan Toews||Marian Hossa|
|Kris Versteeg||Brad Richards||Patrick Kane|
|Bryan Bickell||Andrew Shaw||Dan Carcillo|
|Ben Smith||Marcus Kruger||Jeremy Morin|
First off, let's just point out that for the first team in the last several weeks, these lines make a ton of sense. The defensive efficiency of the second line is going to be a concern for the time being (in addition to the relative stupidity of 2/3 of the third line), especially considering key turnovers from Versteeg and Kane that led to goals on Friday, but it's a trio with plenty of upside.
Saad skated on Saturday, heading into Sunday night's tilt between the Hawks and the Dallas Stars, with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Toews has been a Corsi machine throughout the year, and Hossa is likely going to feel revitalized after being wasted on a line with Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger for the past couple of games. The trio itself can be a two-way monster and could finally be just the ticket to get Saad going.
Even before moving up to the top line, Saad was starting to find a rhythm. He had points in four consecutive games before Friday night's loss to Detroit. Adding him to a line with Toews and Hossa, who are both in the top five on the team in shots (obviously) and lead the team in relative Corsi, should be a recipe for success, without any sort of question.
Of course, this is all contingent on the current lines sticking together, which is far from a certainty given the gentleman behind the bench calling the shots.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.