Brandon Saad developing shooter's mentality

ST. LOUIS -- Patrick Sharp thinks Brandon Saad could benefit if he took his advice more often.

Saad acknowledged Saturday that his recent shot surge for the Chicago Blackhawks had something to do with watching Sharp put shot after shot on net. Sharp joked Saad would learn even more if he paid more attention to him.

“If he says he’s kind of picking that up from me, that’s awesome,” Sharp said after the team’s practice at the Scottrade Center on Saturday. “Hopefully he listens a little bit more to the stuff I got to tell him.”

For now, it’s Sharp’s shot approach that Saad is following. Saad has been more aggressive over the last month, and it’s paid off. He has had 39 shots on net and four goals over the last nine games. Since Jan. 1, he’s had 47 shots and eight goals.

“That’s a guy I obviously look at, too,” Saad said of Sharp. “He shoots the puck a lot. I don’t think it really matters percentage as long as you’re scoring. You want to get pucks on net regardless of it’s going in, it usually creates rebound or chances for other players.

“I think it’s more of a mindset. I’m trying to get the net more and shoot the puck, try to get more quality shots. You have games where you’re getting a lot of shots and they’re not going in, which sometimes frustrates you, but to get the chances is huge. It’s only a matter of time before they go in.”

Saad piled up the shots during a six-game stretch prior to playing the Winnipeg Jets on Friday but didn’t have any results to show for it. He didn’t change anything, and he was rewarded Friday by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime.

While Saad’s mentality has been altered, he also admitted playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa makes life easier on him. Sharp has previously spent time as the left wing to Toews and Hossa and understands what they do for a teammate.

“He’s playing with two players who get a lot of pucks back and are able to put whoever is in that spot in a good position to score,” Sharp said. “I think he’s finding himself with the puck in good areas. And to shoot on net is never a bad idea. Even when he has that puck in our end, he’s got that powerful stride and ability to somehow get it to the net. It’s not always going to be the perfect shot or a great release, but if you get it to the net good things can happen.”

Those good things have been happening and have Saad pointed in the direction of a career season. He scored a career-high 19 goals in 78 games last season and is on the verge of exceeding that this season. He’s second on the Blackhawks with 16 goals through 52 games this season.

Saad was only one goal short of 20 last season, but it’s a number most NHL players set the bar at. Players who score 20 goals or more are normally considered legitimate goal-scorers.

Sharp has reached the 20-goal mark in seven seasons and still recalls the feeling of reaching it the first time in 2007. He ended up right on 20 goals for the Blackhawks in the 2006-07 season.

“It’s a big number, that’s for sure,” Sharp said. “Saader hasn’t hit it yet in his young career. I think he had 19 last year. I know he wants to get to that number. I think in his future he’s going to have a lot more than 20 a year.

“I know the first time I scored 20 it was a huge celebration for myself. It was kind of a milestone. For some reason, it’s a round number that makes you feel like you can score goals in the NHL. We all know that Saader can do that.”

Saad is literally shooting for that goal.

“I was close last year, but I want to keep improving and getting better,” Saad said. “Obviously the goals are nice to come. It’s a big achievement. I’m just trying to work hard and get better every day.”