Sharp wins MVP; Blackhawks' stars stand out

375700.jpg

Sharp wins MVP; Blackhawks' stars stand out

Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011
Posted 6:12 p.m. Updated 8:03 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

RALEIGH, N.C. When the NHL All-Star ballot came out a few months ago, Patrick Sharps name wasnt even on it. It seemed a snub, considering the hot start and consistent scoring the Chicago Blackhawks forward had even then.

Several months, a lot more goals and one All-Star game later, Sharp earned the MVP trophy.

Sharp had a goal and two assists on Sunday and was named MVP, but Team Staal fell to Team Lidstrom 11-10 at the 2011 NHL All-Star game at RBC Center on Sunday afternoon. It was another bright moment for Sharp, and one of vindication.

I guess Id be lying if I said I wasnt a little bothered by it, Sharp said of the ballot snub. It was individual motivation to play well this year and really cant argue with it. The Blackhawks have a ton of great names and great players and a lot of guys deserve to be here.

WATCH: Sharp has Hawks bragging rights

Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists for Nicklas Lidstroms victorious team. Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith each added an assist for Team Lidstrom.

Enjoying his first All-Star appearance, Sharp got two early assists for fellow Thunder Bay native Eric Staals team. He was originally awarded three first-period assists but had one taken away. His Blackhawks teammates said hes earned this.

Hes proven hes one of those guys, one of those stars, Toews said. Hes slowly worked to become a household name. Its not easy but hes done it. You look at the list of former MVPs in this game, youre going to see quite a lineup. Its pretty cool for him to be added to that list.

Kane, Team Lidstroms alternate captain said, its good to see him do well. He was probably a little lonely with all the Blackhawks on this team.

Plusminus

Nicklas Lidstrom and Shea Weber finished plus-7 and plus-6, respectively, in Sundays game. Meanwhile, Keith and former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien were each minus-3. When asked if Keith felt he was alone on the blue line, he joked, a little bit. Nah, seriously, it was good, it was fun. Its an all-star game. Guys are trying to make plays. I dont think anyone cares too much.

WATCH: Keith jokes with 'Big Buff'

Tough travel

Sharps great day was made better with his parents in attendance. But they almost didnt make it. Sharp said his parents got stranded in Newark, N.J., when their flight was canceled, but they found other transportation and made the all-night drive to Raleigh.

They jumped in a minivan and drove from midnight to 8 a.m. just to get here and watch the game, Sharp said. I didnt want to let them down.

As for that car that Sharp wins for being MVP, he said his dad and brother will probably fight over who gets it.

Back to reality

The Blackhawks have had a nice respite, but now its back to the Western Conference dogfight and the road. After spending much of December and January at home, the Blackhawks will play nine of 13 this month away from it. They have a test on their hands, but Toews said theyre ready for it.

This is our time to shine, Toews said. Weve gotten better one game at a time, and its time to play that playoff style of hockey. Every games going to count for us. Guys are going to come back fresh, and we know we can take advantage of it. Our focus will be on our team and nothing else.

Shame, shame

Carolinas Eric Staal was teased for his failure as All-Star team captain, with his squad coming up one goal short. But he wasnt going to take all the blame.

We got complacent. Im not going to lie to you, he said. Youre right, Ill take the brunt of it. Leave a little bit of it for (coach Joel) Quenneville, too.

Briefly

Coach Joel Quenneville will head back to Chicago for the Blackhawks Monday afternoon practice. The Blackhawks All-Star players will head directly to Columbus, where they play the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Quenneville faced three of his players on Sunday and said there were some moments where he was torn. Certainly, you root for your guys. Then Jonny (Toews) makes it 9-8 and I think, Do I root against Jonny?
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

The Blackhawks may want to forget this weekend.

Their captain is struggling health-wise and the rest of the team is struggling in other aspects. That led to a point-less pair of games, something the Blackhawks haven’t dealt with often this season. Even a return home on Sunday, where the Blackhawks had collected points in 12 consecutive games, couldn’t help them.

Still, the show must go on. So before we trudge home in the slush, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

1. Jonathan Toews isn’t improving. The captain isn’t getting any worse but his injury isn’t getting better. That’s what coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game, the sixth in a row Toews has missed with a reported back injury. Toews skated on Sunday morning but will not shut it down for a few days. That’s discouraging news, especially for Toews. You could hear the frustration in Toews’ voice when he talked following Friday’s practice. It’s likely growing.

2. Scott Darling did all he could. We could have “goaltending buoys the Blackhawks” on a save/get key this season. It was true again on Sunday as Darling was stellar in stopping 30 of 32 shots. The Blackhawks have gone through their troubles this season but goaltending hasn’t been one of them. Darling will take the bulk of the work while Corey Crawford is sidelined. If he plays the way he did on Sunday night, the Blackhawks won’t have to worry about that part of their game.

3. Little generated again. Both teams played on Saturday but the Blackhawks were the ones really looking lackluster on Sunday night. The Blackhawks once again didn’t have many great scoring opportunities; through two periods, you could count their quality shots on one hand. They woke up some in the third period but not enough.

4. Second line drawing all the attention? OK, again, right now Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are the Blackhawks’ top line. And with that, the trio has become the prime target of attention for the opposition. Other lines have had opportunities but these are not the balanced Blackhawks teams of previous seasons. That second line is what did the bulk of the damage last season, and teams are focusing on it –  and being more successful against it – this season.

5. Power plays a problem again. The Blackhawks’ first power play was as forgettable as they come. It was so unproductive, spent so little time in the Jets’ zone that fans started to audibly groan. And when the Blackhawks got a four-minute power play late in regulation they couldn’t get the game-tying goal. Again, this isn’t the first season the power play has struggled. But when the offense overall dries up, the issues here are that much more glaring.

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

The Blackhawks’ offense has been struggling for some time now. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks, more often than not, have found a way to get just enough to get them a point or two.

But this weekend, their mediocre offense was downgraded to anemic, and the inevitable disappointing results followed.

Artemi Panarin scored his second goal in as many games but the the Winnipeg Jets scored late to take a 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night. The Blackhawks dropped their second in a row. It was also the first time they didn’t record at least a point at the United Center since their season-opening loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 12.

Jonathan Toews missed his sixth consecutive game with a reported back injury that coach Joel Quenneville said is “not getting better.” Toews will stay off the ice for a few days and be re-evaluated in the middle of the week.

Scott Darling was strong, stopping 30 of 32 shots. But it was one more game in which the Blackhawks leaned on their goaltending and provided little offensive support.

“Yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Duncan Keith said. “We’re obviously not doing what we need to do to create enough offense, putting pucks on the net or getting to the net or even just having enough offensive zone time.”

No, the Blackhawks’ zone time wasn’t so good in this one. That was especially true on their first power play, during which the Jets were more of a threat on Darling than the Blackhawks were on Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

Still, thanks to Panarin’s goal with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks once again had a chance. Andrew Copp diminished those chances some with his goal with 4:45 remaining. The Blackhawks got a four-minute power play with less than three minutes left in the third period but couldn’t get one past Hellebuyck. Their best chance, coming from Marian Hossa, was stopped with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

“That was a good chance to get the equalizer and we had a couple of decent looks but not the finish we were looking for,” Quenneville said. “We didn’t generate much tonight. It was one of those games. They came into our building, what was it a year or two ago, where they beat us back-to-back Sunday nights. They shut us down. The first two games [this season] they’ve shut us down pretty good.”

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks are missing the void left by Toews. Sure, they got points in four of the first six games he missed. But as Patrick Kane said, eventually you start feeling the void left by a top player.

“When you’re missing a guy right away for a couple of games, it may not really show up and guys are excited to get that chance. The longer you go, missing a great player, there’s going to be a hole,” he said. “Nothing we can control. It’s something guys like myself and other guys have to step up and try to [help], whether it’s taking on more ownership and leadership, playing the right way and do whatever you can to help this team win.”

The Blackhawks are going to have to find ways to win without Toews, as they did when he was first absent, because it sounds like he’ll be missing at least a few more games. Even when Toews was in the lineup, however, the scoring issues were there. Are the Blackhawks lacking confidence? Darling said no – “I’d be surprised [at that] with the great offensive players we have in here.”

Still, the Blackhawks need to find answers, no matter who’s in their lineup.

“We just have to figure out a way to get that chemistry going,” Darling said. “Because when it’s going it’s pretty lethal.”