Remember earlier this season when Patrick Sharp was struggling to finish? Yeah, we don’t either. Sharp has been doing nothing but finish lately. And on Friday, he put an exclamation point on his recent hot streak.
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Sharp recorded his third career hat trick and he and Jonathan Toews each had four-point nights as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-2 at the United Center. It was a very happy birthday for Sharp, who celebrated his 32nd with goals No. 19, 20 and 21. Sharp’s latest performance, coupled with his play in recent weeks, seemed to solidify his chances of making the Team Canada roster.
“In my book, that was solidified a long time ago. But he’s out to prove something and I don’t think there’s a guy who deserves it more than him right now,” Toews said. “He’s playing good two-way hockey and that’s a big reason why he has so many scoring chances. He has a lot of confidence right now.”
Patrick Kane continued his scoring trend, assisting on Michal Handzus’ goal for a career-best 13-game point streak. Duncan Keith had three assists. Kris Versteeg also scored and Antti Raanta got the victory for the Blackhawks.
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For Sharp, it was his first hat trick since Nov. 25, 2011 against the Anaheim Ducks. He’s the second NHL player to score a hat trick on his birthday – the late Pavol Demitra did it on Nov. 29, 2002. With an assist on Toews’ second goal, Sharp had his fourth four-point game of his career and second of this season (Nov. 9 vs. Dallas).
Sharp was downplaying what could happen regarding him and Team Canada.
“It’s not really something I’m focusing on on a daily basis,” he said. “I’m excited about the team I have here and we’re excited about the opportunity of defending what happened last year. I’m just trying to help the Hawks win games. Whatever happens with that, it’s out of my control.”
The Blackhawks were in control of this one pretty early, thanks to Sharp’s two first-period goals and Toews’ one. Coming off the three-day break and facing an Avalanche team that didn’t get into Chicago early enough to skate this morning, the Blackhawks looked sharp and refreshed. Coach Joel Quenneville liked the Blackhawks’ approach throughout the day.
“It’s an unpredictable game (off that break); you don’t know how you’re going to play or how your opponent’s going to play. But I thought we were ready,” he said. “We seem to do the right things when we do get rest, and the guys handled it the right way. They looked good this morning, looked good in the meeting. The right approach: that’s what we were looking for. We have a good group of pros here.”
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Toews said the start was key.
“It’s not an easy game for both teams to get into but we definitely wanted to get on them early, having practiced this morning,” he said. “It’s a good one to get out of the way, and to play the way we played, we can be happy with it and be ready for tomorrow night.”
As goal-happy as the Blackhawks were on Friday night, they’re not expecting that tomorrow night against the St. Louis Blues. They’ve had some tussles against their longtime divisional foe, and expect Saturday to be the same. But it was nevertheless a good start out of the break, and one the Blackhawks hope to carry into St. Louis.
“You never know, but we’re going into St. Louis and wouldn’t expect anything like that on the production side,” Quenneville said. “It’s going to be a tight and close-checking affair. It’s going to be a hard game. Some nights, they just go in for you.”