“It’s been unbelievable the whole year in general,” Saad said after Monday’s practice. “It’s kind of been a fairy tale on how well it’s going, and we’re looking to close a chapter here.”
The first chapter of Saad’s rookie season opened with him being given an opportunity in the Blackhawks’ regular-season lineup. The second chapter was him playing well enough to keep that spot. The third chapter was his rise as one of the league’s top rookies, scoring 10 goals and dishing out 17 assists and being voted a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy. The fourth chapter was him enduring playoff struggles and getting bumped from the top line to the third line.
And now, Saad is about to begin writing the final chapter of his rookie season as he and the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
“We talked a little bit about it [being the young players’ first Cup experience] and just embracing it and being excited,” Saad said. “It’s not every year [this happens]. Some guys never make it to the Cup finals in their career. Just excited about it and looking forward to the challenge.”
Saad has enjoyed the team's success throughout the playoffs. But he’d personally like to be more involved offensively. He’s gone goal-less through 17 playoff games. His last goal came in the regular season on April 19.
“Yeah, you always want to produce, especially being an offensive forward,” Saad said. “That’s something you want to do. There’s still time, so we’re looking forward to this round.
“I think we always want to produce and help out, especially in the playoffs knowing that depth is huge, but I think doing our job defensively and working hard and creating chances is the No. 1 goal, and we’re looking to bury them.”
Saad felt his play has improved throughout the playoffs. His three shots on goal against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday was his highest total of the series.
“I felt especially last game I felt good, fresh out there, lots of jump, and our line created chances,” Saad said. “That’s something we’re looking to continue to do and hopefully break through here in the finals.”
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, who is 21 years old, is only a year older than Saad, but he’s had more NHL experience and has tried to help him.
“I try to talk to him,” Shaw said. “We’re not always going to score every game. We just got to compete, create that momentum for each line after us and each shift for us coming. It’s a roller coaster ride, and he’s taking it in just like I am.”