A few minutes had barely passed since Patrick Sharp potted the game-winning goal in overtime, his 34th of this season.
So how many until he ties his career high, set in the 2007-08 season?
“Two,” the Chicago Blackhawks left wing said, holding up the corresponding number of fingers. It’s not surprising he knows his stats; many proficient scorers do in this league. While he’s aware of the numbers, Sharp said he’s not focused on reaching that number anymore.
“It doesn’t really matter,” said Sharp, who has three goals in as many games, including that winner in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime victory over Montreal. “I kind of changed my focus over the years (from) just caring about scoring goals to making plays. I feel that part of my game has improved a lot, making passes, setting up teammates. It’s resulting in better offensive production, more than I’ve ever had.”
In the wake of losing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks needed everyone to step up, everyone to do a little more. They needed even a little more from their top players, and Sharp is one of several who’s brought more, especially offensively. Even before Toews and Kane were injured Sharp was consistently racking up points, and has five goals and nine assists over his last 13 games.
So whatever Sharp’s attitude is toward scoring, assisting, producing offense overall, it’s working.
But it’s been about more than scoring down the stretch. When the Blackhawks lost Toews they also lost his leadership. Sharp, as well as defenseman Duncan Keith, has been the team’s alternate captain for some time – Brent Seabrook has worn the third “A” since Toews was sidelined. However, Sharp said he hasn’t taken on more leadership in Toews’ absence.
“We just have so many guys in the room that take that role on whether it’s Johnny, myself, Duncs or Seabs,” Sharp said. “You look around the room: (Marian) Hossa and (Michal) Handzus have 2,000 games plus between them, (Sheldon) Brookbank’s been around and some of these young guys stepped right in and have been pretty confident and don’t need much guidance. So I don’t think, with Toews out, anyone needs to assume that role. We have a pretty good group of leaders.”
Still, coach Joel Quenneville said Sharp has taken some leadership on the ice.
“I like the responsibility shown,” Quenneville said following Wednesday’s game. “In a game like this, he took charge at the end, got us up the ice with the threat to score. Then we tie it up and he scores in overtime. As part of the core (leadership) group in absence of two of our top guys, Sharp’s stepped up to the plate and responded in the right fashion.”
Sharp’s on the cusp of tying his career best in goals. He said his focus has changed regarding goal scoring, and more goals have followed. Hey, it works.
“Whether I score or get an assist, my job, or part of it, is to produce offensively,” he said. “And I’ll take whatever comes.”