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Brandon Saad stands front and center in Game 1 victory

Chicago Blackhawks left wing BrandSaad (20) deflects shot by Nick Leddy past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for goal

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) deflects a shot by Nick Leddy past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for a goal as Los Angeles Kings center Trevor Lewis (22) and Jeff Schultz (55) watch during the first period of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Chicago on Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA110

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GAME 1

Kings 1
at Hawks 3

GAME 2

7 p.m. Wednesday
at Hawks, NBCSN

GAME 3

7 p.m. Saturday
at Kings, Ch. 5

GAME 4

8 p.m. next Monday
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 5 if necessary

7 p.m. May 28
at Hawks, NBCSN

GAME 6 if necessary

8 p.m. May 30
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 7 if necessary

7 p.m. June 1
at Hawks, NBCSN

Updated: June 23, 2014 1:24PM



Brandon Saad is used to scoring goals with speed and agility. But as he found out Sunday, staying parked in front of the net might be more effective in the playoffs.

“I think I need to start doing that more,” the 21-year-old Saad said after he scored on a deflection of a shot by Nick Leddy in the Hawks’ 3-1 victory against the Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference final. “That can get [you] goals different types of ways, and I think getting to the net more, especially in the playoffs, is how they’re going to come.”

Saad’s goal came on a power play after Brandon Bollig goaded Kings defenseman Alec Martinez into an ill-advised roughing penalty by hovering over goalie Jonathan Quick after a first-period save.

After Marian Hossa won a battle for the puck along the boards in the Hawks’ offensive zone, he passed to Leddy, who fired the shot from the point. Saad was exactly where he was supposed to be.

“We were working along the outside, and we always want to have net-front traffic, especially in front of a goaltender of that caliber,” said Saad, who also assisted on Duncan Keith’s tie-breaking goal in the second period. ‘‘I just tried to get to the net and take away his eyes. Hoss [Hossa] made a nice pass to Leds [Leddy]. I was trying to get to the net, and luckily it went off my leg.”

But many proponents of net-front presence say luck has less to do with it than it appears.

“You’ve got to be there first,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “There’s a willingness to get there, probably a price to pay. Sometimes they go off you. I know they’ve had some success by being there, fortunate bounces off our pads or sticks. We don’t even know it hits us.’’

The Hawks’ figure to need more goals like Saad’s to beat Quick and the Kings.

“If you’re looking for a perfect goal on a power play, it’s not going to happen,” Quenneville said.

“[Saad’s] been net-front for a while,” teammate Bryan Bickell said. “It was nice to get it off his leg and tip one in. Being in front is important with Quick. He’s an elite goalie. If we can get him second-guessing in his mind where the puck is going to be, we’ll have better opportunities to score.”

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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