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Blackhawks’ rookie Brandon Saad not pressing offensively entering Stanley Cup Final

Sean Leahy
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad played his way into a Calder Trophy nomination with a strong month of March. The 20-year old forward netted 15 points in 14 games and finished fourth overall among rookies with 27 points.

But entering the postseason, Saad hit a wall offensively. Through three rounds, he has just four assists. His biggest playoff contribution so far was setting up two goals in the Blackhawks' Game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.

While the puck hasn't bounced his way just yet, however, the youngster isn't pressing.

"Being able to play three rounds so far, the pressure increases, but I'm feeling pretty comfortable the more I do it," said Saad after Wednesday's morning skate ahead of Game 1.

The offensive struggles haven't worried Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, as he noted during the Kings series.

"I think he's handling it fine," said Quenneville. "He's a threat offensively. He's dangerous with the puck. We use him in both special teams units. He gets some different kind of ice time. I think he's a threat no matter who he's playing with."

A year ago, Saad was finishing up his junior hockey career with Saginaw of the OHL. Now he's playing for the Stanley Cup in his first NHL season. Compare that to 38-year Jamal Mayers, who has finally made it to the fourth and final round after 15 seasons. Opportunities to play for the Cup don't come every year, and Saad is not taking this experience for granted.

"It's been an unbelievable year. I never expected to be here. To be here, I'm just excited and enjoying the moment," Saad said.

"It doesn't matter at this stage whether you're a rookie or a veteran, you've got to come to play."

You don't get this far in the Stanley Cup playoffs without help from your depth players, and Saad hasn't been able to be a part of that production yet. He last scored on April 19 against Nashville, but the Final provides him a fresh opportunity to get some goals.

"Hopefully I'm saving them for this round."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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