Patrick Sharp flying under radar as playoff goal leader
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org June 21, 2013 8:52PM
Updated: July 23, 2013 6:16AM
Patrick Sharp is doing a lot of talking these days, and the word he keeps coming back to is “fun.”
Ask him about the unyielding tension and pressure of the playoffs. He’ll say it’s fun. Ask him about the smack talk and post-whistle shoving matches that are starting to bubble up with the Boston Bruins. He’ll say how much fun it is. He even seems to be enjoying the crush of the international media, gradually emerging as not only a Conn Smythe candidate as playoff MVP, but as the face of the Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Final — as quick with a one-liner as he is with a one-timer.
When Game 1 of the series ended in triple overtime, it was Sharp who gamely stood at his locker stall and addressed wave after wave of reporters while teammates desperately chugged fluids and caught their breath. After a wild 6-5 win in Game 4, Sharp held court in the dressing room. Then on NHL Network. Then on ESPN.
Canada’s TSN then got some mileage out of Sharp’s tumble during his post-goal celebration Wednesday, counting down the 10 most awkward sports celebrations. The network poked him about it again after practice Friday.
“Jimmy Fallon said I was ‘most likely to stare at myself in the ice,’ ” Sharp said, referring to a “Late Night” bit that had some fun with the Hawks’ and Bruins’ official headshots. “Maybe I was looking at myself. I don’t know.”
Said teammate and frequent Sharp-needling victim Patrick Kane: “Sharpie doesn’t really see too much embarrassment, so it’s good for him to get his fill.”
Sharp doesn’t usually see too much attention, either. At least, not compared to some of his higher-profile teammates, such as Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The talk lately has been about how Toews isn’t scoring enough goals. The talk before that was about Kane not scoring enough goals.
Meanwhile, all Sharp has been doing in the playoffs is scoring goals. As usual.
“He’s kind of been overlooked and under the radar for some time, ever since I’ve been here,” Kane said. “He’s been probably our most consistent goal-scorer ever since I’ve been here, too.”
Sharp’s Game 4 goal — embarrassing as the aftermath was — was his 10th of the postseason, more than any other player in the league. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in the Hawks’ 2010 run to the Stanley Cup, including a tally in each of the last three games of the Final against the Philadelphia Flyers (though Toews got the Conn Smythe). The year before that, Sharp had seven goals in three rounds.
Sharp scored at least 20 times in six consecutive seasons — including three 30-goal campaigns — before the combination of a shortened schedule and a shoulder injury limited him to six goals in 2013. But he has more than made up for that in the playoffs, carrying the offensive load in the early going while Toews and Kane struggled.
“He’s a big-time player,” rookie Brandon Saad said. “That’s what I’ve realized this year. He’s shown up in big games, he’s had some big goals for us and he’s a leader on this team. I’m not sure what people out there are saying, but in here, as a team, we know how important he is.”
The rest of the hockey world seems to be catching on, though Sharp just shrugged at the idea. Either way, he’s just having a lot of fun.
“The media writes stories that they choose to write about,” Sharp said. “If they don’t write about me, that’s fine. We’ve got plenty of players in here that deserve recognition. I’m not the only one flying under the radar.”