Still searching for goals, Brandon Saad dropped to Blackhawks’ fourth line
Among them, they have scored 19 goals or more 13 times, with five 30-goal seasons. So as far as fourth lines go, it’s a dream.
But for Patrick Sharp, Ryan Hartman and Brandon Saad, this season has been closer to a nightmare.
Sharp has six goals and has been a healthy scratch for four consecutive games. Hartman has seven goals and none in his last 13 games. And Saad, who opened the season with a hat trick and had four game-winning goals in the first six games, has 13 goals but has only one assist to show for his last 11 games.
On Monday, coach Joel Quenneville threw them all together on the fourth line, his latest desperate toss at the dartboard.
Call it the Misery Loves Company line.
‘‘I think it’s a pretty good line,’’ Saad said. ‘‘Even though we’ve been a little snakebit, we’re all good players. It should be pretty exciting here to get going [Tuesday against the Flames].’’
Saad has managed to put a positive spin on a massively disappointing season. If his goal drought is hurting his confidence, he’s not letting it show. And it’s not because he’s an analytics guy, buoyed by his tremendous possession numbers (fifth in the league) or by the fact that he’s long overdue for a course correction in his shooting percentage (8.5 percent, well below his previous career average of 11.8 percent).
Instead, Saad is just holding tight to the notion that he’s a proven scorer in the NHL and that it’s only a matter of time before he regains that finishing touch.
‘‘Yeah, that’s not something I pay so much attention to,’’ he said of the advanced metrics. ‘‘It doesn’t really matter. It’s about living in the moment and following through. . . . It’s been tough, you know? But you just try to get stronger from it.’’
Saad’s bigger concern is the Hawks’ situation — five points out of a playoff spot with four teams to leapfrog. But when he said, ‘‘You could have 50 goals right now, but being in the situation we’re in, it’s tough to feel good about ourselves,’’ he might have been missing the larger point. Because if Saad, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Sharp or any of the other underperforming veterans were scoring at their customary rate, the Hawks wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in.
The Hawks’ last 13 goals have been scored by players 23 or younger. That’s simultaneously encouraging and alarming. So Quenneville said that while he expected more production from Saad this season, he hoped his latest lineup would both send a message and spark players such as Saad and Sharp.
‘‘There’s certainly ability there to be successful,’’ Quenneville said.
That has been the story of the season for the Hawks — lots of potential with very little to show for it. And for all the talk about goalie Corey Crawford’s possible return and all the progress made by the younger players, this team is going nowhere without production from its most proven performers.
‘‘It is frustrating,’’ Saad said. ‘‘I’m just trying to stay positive. . . . Sometimes you just relax, take a step back and some of that luck’s going to go your way.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.