When Patrick Sharp went down for a few weeks, there were instant concerns that the struggling Blackhawks were going to need help to get back on track.
In the two games since Sharp left the lineup, the Hawks have received contributions from all over the roster.
Viktor Stalberg, skating with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and exploded. In his last two games, Stalberg has four goals, two hits and five takeaways. He has been credited with the game-winning goal in each of the victories, putting him in a tie with Sharp for the team lead. Stalberg is now tied with a number of players, including Sharp, for third in the NHL in game-winners, including Claude Giroux and Steven Stamkos.
Youngster Jimmy Hayes has been given increased ice time, and has stepped up to the challenge. In 29:34 between the Columbus and Minnesota wins, Hayes has eight hits, one goal, one assist and one blocked shot. He has been physical in the corners and has been able to establish position around the net. It appears he has won a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks moving forward.
Another rookie, Andrew Shaw, has also impressed. He has on blocked shot in both games without Sharp, and has accumulated seven hits in 30:57 combined ice time. He scored his second goal of the season in the victory over Minnesota.
Thankfully, Dave Bolland has been outstanding in Sharp’s absence. After a long struggle to put up points consistently, Bolland has five points (three goals, two assists) in the two games without Sharp. He has also blocked two shots and won 15 of 31 faceoffs in the last two games. His empty net goal in the final moments of the win against the Wild on Thursday was his first even strength goal since the third game of the season.
In total, 15 different Blackhawks have a point in the last two games, and seven have more than one point in the two games without Sharp. While one would assume Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews would have a couple points in the last two games, the other five names with multiple points would surprise anyone: Bolland, Stalberg, Michael Frolik, Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell.
Two dominating wins, and Duncan Keith was one of only three Blackhawks without a point in either game (Nick Leddy and Jamal Mayers were the others).
Perhaps more importantly, coach Joel Quenneville has been able to spread out his ice time on special teams as well. Hayes has skated major minutes on the power play in both games, and Shaw has been on the penalty kill in each contest. In fact, Bryan Bickell is the only Blackhawks player that hasn’t contributed at least two seconds on at least one special teams unit in the last two games.
Certainly the Blue Jackets are far from a quality gauge of play, the Wild would be a playoff team in the Western Conference if the season ended after Thursday night’s games. They’re struggling, but Minnesota has 50 points.
Until a trade happens, the Blackhawks need to receive contributions from all over their roster. In the first two games without Sharp, they’ve seen every corner of the roster step up in a big way.