In scoring two goals on Friday night against the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp asserted himself into the team’s first round playoff series in a big way.
Sharp, who missed 20 games this season due to various injuries, has looked good since he returned late in the regular season, scoring a goal and adding an assist in his final two games. He only ended up with four shots on goal in those games, but he looked good in his ice time with Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and Michal Handzus.
That good juju has carried over into the playoffs. Sharp had five shots on goal in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, and was one of the few Blackhawks who was willing to push a faster tempo against a Minnesota team intent on clogging up the offensive zone. In the second game, he did the same thing, but this time his efforts were rewarded, as he won a puck battle behind the net to score his first goal, and tapped home an easy tally when Kane hit him with a no look pass in the third period.
As the Hawks’ 2-0 series lead can attest, the team is definitely better when Sharp is on the ice. During the regular season, the team was an incredible 25-0-3 in games that Sharp played, and they are currently riding a 17 game winning streak, regular season and playoffs, when he is in the lineup.
Despite only scoring six times, Sharp was the catalyst behind the team’s puck possession style of play, and also provided enough pressure on defenses to allow Kane more open ice. Kane benefitted greatly from the lower level of attention from teams enough to rack up 31 points in the 28 games that Sharp played, and the benefits were mutual. Sharp has long been viewed as more of a sniper than a playmaker, whereas Kane fills the opposite role.
Kane’s passing ability was on full display on both Tuesday, when he threaded a beautiful pass to Marian Hossa on the rush, as well as Friday with his no-look pass to Sharp.
Now, with the Blackhawks 7-0 in games that Sharp scores a goal, the team will need him to continue to do what he does best if they are going to live up to their billing as Stanley Cup favorites. Whether it’s scrambling for rebounds in front, or pushing the puck up the ice, Sharp is an offensive jack of all trades for the Hawks, and would likely fill a first line role on a slew of other teams in the league.