Slumping Sharp will keep shooting, confident goals will come
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter May 8, 2014 10:36PM
Updated: May 8, 2014 11:12PM
Worried? No, nobody’s worried about Patrick Sharp. The shots are there, the effort is there, the chances are there. The goals, his teammates and his coach are sure of it, will come.
Frustrated? OK, maybe Sharp’s a little frustrated. But only because the Blackhawks were shut out by the Minnesota Wild in Game 3, and Sharp couldn’t do anything about it. When the Hawks were winning, the goose eggs didn’t bother him nearly as much.
Impatient? That might be the one. Marian Hossa had a bit of a scoring slump, and he ended it in a big way. Brandon Saad did, too. Sharp, with just one goal and two assists in 11 games, knows it should be his turn soon — he hopes as soon as Friday night in Game 4 at XCel Energy Center in St. Paul.
But Sharp’s not waiting around for it to finally happen.
“I don’t think waiting is the right word,” Sharp said. “You sit around waiting for things to happen, and usually this time of year, they’re not going to happen.”
So Sharp will keep shooting. Keep trying to create. Keep trying to regain the form that made him the Hawks’ most consistent producer and a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate in each of their two recent Stanley Cup runs. In 2010, Sharp had 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 games. In 2013, he had 10 goals and six assists in 23 games.
Sharp has raised the bar awfully high — he’s used to coming up big on the biggest stages. And his career season — 34 goals and 44 assists — only served to ratchet up expectations.
“Sure, I know I can be better in that category,” he said. “Whether it’s making plays, whether it’s being more direct with my play, getting more scoring opportunities, helping out my line mates. I know that’s something I can do.”
It would be different if the Hawks had flamed out in the first round against the St. Louis Blues, or if they were chasing the Wild. Until that Game 3 loss, in which Sharp had four of the Hawks’ 19 shots on goal, they had won six in a row, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane — who had extended scoring droughts of their own in the first couple of rounds last spring before busting out — leading the charge.
The Hawks likely need Sharp to start scoring if they’re going to win another Stanley Cup. But their glut of star forwards has made the mini-slump easier to absorb — especially, as coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, while Sharp continues to create chances and play a strong two-way game.
“Like we say a lot, we don’t care who scores, as long as we get some contributions across the board,” Quenneville said. “Whether it’s [Sharp], or Kaner, or Tazer, we still have a number of guys that are capable of producing. It’s tough to designate a guy, or say, ‘It’s that guy tonight.’ But the fact that we’ve got several options is what makes us a good team.”
Sharp is second on the team to Hossa in shots on goal with 31, and leads the team in shot attempts with 46. His lone goal was huge but fluky, coming on a breakaway in Game 6 against the Blues in which he was high-sticked in the face and scored despite not really getting a full shot off. It was the kind of goal that the Hawks hoped would open the floodgates for Sharp. It hasn’t yet. And maybe Sharp’s getting restless.
But his teammates and his coach believe it’s only a matter of time.
“He’s had a lot of chances, and he’s been one of the hardest-working guys on our team throughout these playoffs,” forward Ben Smith said. “They’re going to start dropping for him, and it’s going to be a good thing for us when they start going in.”