Brandon Saad's Play is Looking a Little Familiar

The Avalanche brought in Brandon Saad over the off-season to help address scoring concerns. With the way he's playing right now, he's not only doing exactly that – but he's channeling his 2015 form that helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup.
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Brandon Saad

Colorado Avalanche fans would like another chance at Game 5.

It didn't exactly go to plan for the President's Trophy winners. The Avs looked like they had the game in the bag after taking a 2-0 lead into the third period. Just 20 minutes of solid, shutdown hockey.

And then they lost 3-2 in overtime.

It was ugly, and something that could be the difference in the Avalanche competing for a Cup and taking the summer off to enjoy Denver's finest. But one positive from Tuesday evening was the continued strong play of Brandon Saad, who has truly found a home on Colorado's second line. His goal in the dying minutes of the first period made it 1-0, somehow beating Marc-Andre Fleury over his blocker to give his team the lead in a game that had a 2-2 series tie at that point.

Much of Saad's playoffs have been spent on the second and third line, although he did get promoted to the top trio on Tuesday. Most of Saad's damage has been done with Tyson Jost and Valeri Nichushkin this post-season, and in Jost's case in particular, he has seen the puck a lot more with Saad by his side. Saad has always been a goal-scorer, scoring 15 in a shortened 2020-21 campaign and at least 20 in five other seasons. But with seven goals in nine games this year, he's continuing to show why.

If you've watched Saad play playoff hockey before, his arrival when it matters isn't exactly a new phenomenon. When he was just 22, Saad's mix of speed, strength and offensive prowess made him one of the stars of Chicago's 2015 playoff run, scoring eight goals along the way as one of the team's better secondary scorers. He was counted on to be a primary offensive threat, but he got in the dirty areas and could play with just around anyone. He was like a younger Marian Hossa, to a point. 

Saad actually had more points back in 2014 with six goals and 16 points in 19 games for the Blackhawks, but the team didn't come out with the title. But when you watch back the tape, you can see a young guy who was motivated to help his team win and became a star in the making.

Of course, the Hawks moved him to Columbus the following season, where he'd hit a career-high 53 points in consecutive seasons. His offensive value dipped a bit after getting traded back to Chicago in 2017-18 as part of the Artemi Panarin deal, but he continued his path to becoming a consistent 20-goal scorer in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired Saad from Chicago last October in exchange for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm, and from the offset, you could tell the Avalanche were getting incredible value out of the deal. With 15 goals this season in an injury-shortened campaign, Saad helped solidify the team's scoring depth in a big way, and it's starting to pay dividends. 

We're only in the second round of the playoffs this year, but Saad – playing in a more valuable role and in a better organization than he did in Chicago a year ago – is just one goal away from tying his all-time career best. All seven of his points have been goals, with Saad only failing to score in two outings. An injury kept Saad out of the final 11 games of the regular season, but he has been otherwise important in Colorado's lineup.

The Avalanche are at a point in the series where they really can't afford to have Saad off the scoresheet. Despite leading the league with a goals-for-per-game of 3.89 in the post-season, the average falls down to 2.00 over the past four games – that's second, only ahead of the Winnipeg Jets that got swept by Montreal. Saad and Rantanen are the only forwards on the team with more than two points (three each) over the past four contests and MacKinnon has just one assist to show for. 

Scoring has been an issue against a locked-down Golden Knights team, but Saad hasn't been the problem. With three goals on eight shots (37.5 shooting percentage), while playing just 16:00 a night, Saad has been effective while playing against Vegas' depth. Now let's see what he can wrangle in a pair of must-win games for the franchise.

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