Best of seven
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:21AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — As the last of his teammates filed off the ice Thursday afternoon at Johnny’s IceHouse West, Patrick Sharp lingered. He gathered a pile of pucks at his feet and began firing them toward an empty net for a few minutes. For five minutes. For 10 minutes. For, well, he lost track of exactly how long.
“Just shooting the puck,” Sharp said. “Getting back to the basics. Just firing the puck as much as I can.”
With just him and the goal, some of the pucks found iron, some of them sailed wide or high, and some of them dented the back of the net. It’s been that kind of season for the Blackhawks left wing. When he’s been on the ice, the Hawks have yet to lose a game in regulation or overtime — a nearly unfathomable 27-0-3 record, including the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Minnesota Wild. But even during those boom times, Sharp’s had a lot of clang times — hitting pipes, crossbars, opponents, and the very edges of goaltenders’ equipment. “Snake-bitten,” linemate Patrick Kane has said on numerous occasions.
Far more frustrating, however, has been a left shoulder injury that caused him to miss 19 regular-season games over two stints in March and April. Including a day off for the regular-season finale, Sharp played in just four games since he was injured on March 6 — the final day of the Hawks’ season-opening 24-game point streak — against Colorado.
And while Sharp said his lungs and legs have never felt better — shoulder injuries allow for an awful lot of long conditioning skates — his timing hasn’t been the same since he returned.
Hence the stack of pucks and the extra work at Johnny’s.
“It’s always nice when you can play a number of games and get that rhythm going,” Sharp said. “So whenever I can get on the ice and stay out there as long as I can, or get out there early, I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.”
It seems to be paying off. Sharp finally got off the
schneid in Friday night’s Game 2, scoring two big third-period goals to help the Hawks pull away for a 5-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead heading into Sunday afternoon’s Game 3 in St. Paul. The two goals were his first non-empty-netters since March 1. With the injury and the bad luck, he had just six goals in 28 games, snapping a string of six consecutive 20-goal seasons.
His teammates hoped that Friday’s goals will open the floodgates for Sharp, who’s been so close so often this season.
“Been a frustrating year for him with the injuries,” Bryan Bickell said. “But confidence goes a long way in this game.”
But Sharp shrugged off the idea that it was a “relief” to score. He’s never been hurting for confidence, and goal-scoring is just what he does, regardless of what the numbers say this season.
“It’s not a relief, it’s just a nice feeling,” he said. “It’s always nice to score. I like scoring goals, and I think everyone that plays the game likes scoring. It wasn’t like I was over thinking it or stressing about it.”
As for Sharp’s near-perfect record? Well, one thing is certain — the better he plays, the better his timing and the better his stats, the better chance the Hawks have of extending it through these playoffs.
“Just got to make sure I play every game then, right?” Sharp said with a smirk. “That’s just a credit to our team. I missed a lot of hockey this year, and it’s tough to jump in the lineup after being out for so long. We’ve got such a good team, they make it easy for me to get back in there.”