Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is renowned for his love of shuffling up lines and moving players around, and one of the primary beneficiaries of his experimentation has been Brandon Saad.
The forward, who will hit restricted free agency at season’s end, has been on several lines during the Stanley Cup Final, finding success with each one. He was moved to the second line for Wednesday’s Game 4 against Tampa Bay in an unannounced switch, and he scored the game-winning goal as the Blackhawks evened up the series.
Despite the rotating cast of players around him, Saad feels that Quenneville’s tendency to move players around helped him feel comfortable on any line.
“When you get that experience throughout the season, you learn how (other) guys move and how they play,” he said. “That chemistry definitely helps you out there on the ice.”
Saad practiced and took pregame line rushes with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, but instead he found himself on a line with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane when the starting lineup was announced. That bit of gamesmanship did pay off for Quenneville and company, as Kane notched his first point of the series and Saad scored for the second consecutive game.
“Whether it’s with Johnny or Hossa or Kaner, (I’m) pretty comfortable with anyone,” Saad said of the pregame change-up. “Q does his job well and fits and finds the right combinations.”
Saad’s frequent linemate Jonathan Toews knows what it’s like to have different players on the wings for his line, but he perfectly summed up the team’s approach to the changes.
“I think we got a great bunch of guys that understand that and are ready for whatever look our coaches are trying to give our lineup,” he said. “We’ll be ready for those changes and those opportunities.”