With only two games left on the calendar, the Blackhawks line up as the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Fans have been quick to point out the flaws with this year’s Hawks team (special teams and… special teams), but Chicago has quietly put together one of the more impressive offensive seasons in the Western Conference.
And leading the way in Chicago the whole year has been Patrick Sharp. Indeed, Sharp has been leading the Blackhawks for most of the past decade.
Thursday night will be his 500th in a Blackhawks’ sweater, a mark worth celebrating for one of the game’s good guys.
One would think that Sharp would carry a higher profile around the league after winning All-Star Game MVP honors a year ago, but the focus continues to be on Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.
Indeed, even in Chicago, Sharp is often taken for granted because of his admittedly stunning good looks and charm. In spite of the lack of league-wide exposure, Sharp has (quietly) continued to carry the Blackhawks’ offense.
Entering Thursday, the Hawks are tied with the Canucks as the highest scoring team in the Western Conference (244 goals). Only 10 players in the conference have reached 67 points, and two of them are Blackhawks: Hossa (second in the conference with 77) and Sharp (tied for ninth with 67).
Since the All-Star Game, while the Hawks have been without Jonathan Toews, Sharp has stepped up his game even more. He has 27 points in 30 games since the Break, including three game-winning goals five points on the power play. Sharp’s 13 goals since the Break are tied for seventh in the Western Conference.
Heading into Minnesota, Sharp’s 67 points are four off his career high of 71 from last year, and his plus-27 mark is the best of his career. He is also skating the highest average ice time of his career (19:54), and reached the 30-goal plateau for the third time in his NHL career.
He has been one of the best Blackhawks forwards of the last 20 years. Sharp shares two distinctions with Eric Daze. Daze was the last Blackhawks player to win All-Star Game MVP honors before Sharp, and he was also the last Hawks’ player to score at least 30 goals in consecutive seasons (2000-01 and ’01-02).
Yes, you read that correctly. It had been ten years since a Blackhawks player scored 30 goals in back-to-back seasons.
Sharp has now scored 183 goals in the Indian head sweater, which is 19th in franchise history. His 368 points are tied (with Kane) for 28th in team history.
Acquired in one of the best trades in franchise history, Sharp has been everything the Blackhawks needed to leave the dark days of underwhelming crowds and early summers behind. One of the centerpieces to the renaissance on the west side of Chicago, Sharp has always been the consummate professional.
Congrats on reaching 500 games, Sharpie! Here’s to 500 more.