Blackhawks win Presidents’ Trophy with 4-1 victory
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 24, 2013 11:08PM
Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) and Brandon Saad celebrate a goal on the Edmonton Oilers during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)
Updated: April 25, 2013 6:31AM
EDMONTON, Alberta — Patrick Sharp crumpled to the ice as an Oilers defenseman fell on his leg, and right away Sharp thought something was wrong. Again. He grimaced, slowly got up, flailed his stick in anger and trudged off to the bench, unsure when — or if — he’d be back.
“Been that kind of season for me,” he said. “I thought the worst. It was a scary play.”
It took Sharp 14 games to come back from a shoulder injury. After only two games back, it took him five more to come back from a reaggravation of it. This time, though, it only took him a couple of minutes. And on his next shift, Sharp raced the length of the ice and scored an empty-net goal, capping the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the Oilers and clinching the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team.
It was the last regular-season milestone for the Hawks, who led the NHL from wire-to-wire, racing out to a huge lead with a record 24-game season-opening point streak. They’re cruising to the finish line at 35-6-5 with two games left in the regular season. It means the Hawks will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“It’s something we can look back on when the season’s over,” Sharp said.
“But we’re playing for much bigger things.”
But while Sharp’s return was a welcome sight for the Hawks, goalie Ray Emery leaving the game with a lower-body injury with 6:11 left in the first period was a most unwelcome one.
Emery dressed as Corey Crawford’s backup on Monday night in Vancouver but missed the previous two games with the unspecified injury.
The playoffs start Tuesday, but coach Joel Quenneville said Emery was only day-to-day and that the injury wasn’t serious.
Crawford came in and stopped all 14 shots he faced, making a spectacular glove save on a point-blank Jordan Eberle shot in the second period.
“You’ve got to be prepared; you’ve got to expect the unexpected,” Crawford said. ‘‘I felt good, just carried on from the last game [Monday in Vancouver], I think.”
The Hawks got goals from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Johnny Oduya and Sharp. Kane added two assists, as did Michal Handzus.
Most of the Hawks have had little left to play for in the last week of the regular season — especially now with the No. 1 overall seed locked up — and Quenneville is doling out days off to some players each game (Michael Frolik had Wednesday off). But Sharp has a lot at stake this week as he tries to get himself into game shape for the playoffs.
“I think the timing [is the biggest thing],” he said. “You can only skate by yourself so much until you lose that timing. Thankfully, I’m playing with good players on a team that should make it a lot easier to come back.”
Though, as has been the case for most of the season, the Hawks’ second line still isn’t intact with center Dave Bolland out with a groin injury. In his place, Drew LeBlanc made his NHL debut. Marcus Kruger also got some shifts there.
Of course, that’s nothing new for Sharp. In fact, Sharp, Bolland and Kane have all played in the same game in only two of the Hawks’ last 28 because of Sharp’s shoulder injury and a variety of Bolland ailments.
“I’m used to that,” Sharp said. “This is actually the longest I’ve played with one center since I’ve been in Chicago. Most of these guys in here have played with each other at some point in the last few years, so that doesn’t make a difference.”
Sharp indeed looked rusty at times, missing a couple of good scoring chances, and he didn’t take faceoffs — perhaps to prevent strain on the shoulder. He admitted there was “a little concern” that he won’t be able to get back in game shape in time for the playoffs, but he believed three games “should be plenty.” As long as he can stay out there.
“Been a rough season,” he said. “I’m just glad to be back out there.”