The Chicago Blackhawks lost one of their star players Sunday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. Patrick Sharp went out with a knee injury with 1:35 left in the first period of what turned out to be 2-1 win.
The loss of Sharp and the win over the Coyotes is yet another example of the up-and-down roller coaster that has become the Hawks' in this late season push.
Here's a quick recap of the last few infuriatingly inconsistent games:
On Monday, the Hawks started a tad slow before blitzing one of the hotter teams in the league with a 2nd period barrage in. That was followed by a complete thud in Texas where they made it look like a burden to have that much gear on for that long of a time.
The week ended with a thorough examination of Hawks' collective guts in Phoenix, where they passed the test. Can you see now why everyone loves and hates this team?
The first and third periods against the Coyotes were as structurally solid as the Hawks have managed this season. Most of the game was played behind the Coyotes net, where it comes down to how much you want to work. The Hawks were willing, and they created a chance or two.
When the Yotes managed to get a grip on the puck, they merely dumped it out of their zone where the Hawks were happy to collect possession again and start all over. The four shots the Coyotes were held to in the period don't even tell the whole story. When you don't let these nippy forwards build speed through the neutral zone, either by turning it over and weakly submitting possession so they can get it in deep in your zone, they really struggle to create their own offense. That's what you saw in the beginning and ending of this game.
The second period got a little itchy, though. The Hawks reverted to trying to get cute at the Phoenix blue line or in their own zone, resulting in turnovers and rushes the other way. Though the Coyotes piled up 14 shots in the period, only a few of them were threatening. Sadly, the goal they scored wasn't off a threatening chance, just dumb idiot luck that Nick Leddy happened to be standing in the exact spot to get hit in the exact spot to deflect it in.
But it was good to see them correct their mistakes in a game tied after two where the Hawks have been awful all year and go back to what was working. Viktor Stalberg and Marian Hossa especially kept the game simply using their speed to get in behind the defense and create chances. The Hawks were rewarded with a soft penalty, but you make your own luck -- or at least that's what I'm supposed to say to make myself feel better. The increasingly clever Chris Campoli found the Sharp-spot and made no mistakes.
The last couple minutes were frantic, but a non-overworked Corey Crawford is a good one, and he was up to the test of closing Phoenix out. You always need one or two big saves to win a one-goal game, and the Hawks got it. You need a little luck, they got that, as well as some bad. But most of all you have to have the discipline and patience to stick to the script and not try and make it all happen yourself, and most importantly the Hawks did that tonight.
Now we just have to wait on Sharp, a player, with all his warts, the Hawks cannot do without right now.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .