Blackhawks Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp feeling pinch of Coyotes’ ‘D’
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com April 22, 2012 9:46PM
Patrick Kane (88) doesn’t have a point in the last two games against the Coyotes, and Patrick Sharp has just one goal in the series. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Best of seven
Updated: May 24, 2012 8:30AM
The Blackhawks have a way of making you believe that anything is possible after a victory and making you question everything about them after a loss.
So with Game 6 against the Phoenix Coyotes on tap Monday at the United Center after an overtime victory, is a comeback in the series truly possible?
The Hawks have played well enough to win every game, but they haven’t played nearly as well as they’re capable of. Instead, the Coyotes’ system and work ethic have slowed things to their preferred pace, one the Hawks have to be patient against.
The Hawks’ success might come down to two players: Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
The defense has improved, Jonathan Toews showed up in Game 5, the depth players have produced and goalie Corey Crawford rebounded after two defeats that left him sleepless.
Overdue production from Kane and Sharp can be the difference in the series. If they start clicking, winning three in a row seems possible.
Kane is tied with Toews for the team lead with four points, but they’re all assists and he has been kept off the scoresheet in the last two games. Sharp only has his game-tying goal with 5.5 seconds left in Game 2.
“They’re working hard, and they’re trying different things to go out there and score goals,” Toews said Sunday. “For guys like ourselves that put that pressure on ourselves to go out there and score, we want to keep producing and do more than we have.
“Especially those two guys, they’ve got to stick with it and know that it’s going to come. We’ve come this far in this series. We’re still alive having done what we have. And hopefully, their best hockey is yet to come.”
The Hawks have to grind out victories. The Coyotes aren’t going to skate up and down the ice with the Hawks. They are content on getting a handful of offensive chances — many coming off Hawks mistakes — and relying on goalie Mike Smith to give them a chance to win.
“[The Hawks] came out and played a very good game [in Game 5], and I thought we could have done some things a lot better, but it was still a tight, tight game,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We’re going up there with the same mind-set. We’re going to have to play a tight game and find a way to win one.”
Kane and Sharp know how tough it is to find space. The Coyotes have blocked a Western Conference-high 109 shots in the playoffs. Patience is key for the two stars, who also are key parts of a power play that is 1-for-17 in the series.
“It seems like every time you get the puck, they’re trying to converge on you, make you make tougher plays,” Kane said before Game 5. “For us, we just have to play patient, try not to worry about scoring and just play the right way.”
Sharp and Kane were two of the best Hawks down the stretch while Toews was out with a concussion. Sharp probably was the Hawks’ MVP this season with 33 goals and a plus-28 rating, both team highs. Kane deserves credit for handling center and right wing this season.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday that it doesn’t matter where the production comes from, as long as the Hawks get some. But Sharp and Kane would be the first to tell you that they’ve expected more from themselves this postseason.
“I always try to score and help the team win whatever way that I can,” Sharp said before making a few standout defensive plays in Game 5. “If the fingers are pointed at me, then that’s fine, I’ll accept it. But I’m not going to waste any time on negative energy.”