Patrick Sharp is hot.
The veteran Blackhawks forward, who struggled to score goals in the regular season and seemingly was among the league leaders in shots off the posts and crossbar, scored his second goal in as many playoff games with a nifty move in front of the net in the Hawks’ 6-2 loss to the Predators in Game 2 on Friday night.
Even when he wasn’t scoring, the 33-year-old Sharp was active throughout the game. He had five shots on goal to give him 11 in two games in the series.
Sharp scored 16 goals and 43 points and had a career-low shooting percentage of 7.0 in 68 games in the regular season — a big drop from 2013-14, when he led the Hawks with 34 goals and scored 78 points and scored on 10.9 percent of his shots in 82 games.
Is he rejuvenated, or just getting breaks he didn’t get in the regular season?
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it too much,” Sharp said. ‘It’s the playoffs—the most important thing is winning. In our locker room we don’t care who’s scoring as long as we’re winning games.
“It was nice from an individual standpoint to get a couple of goals to start the series and kind of turn the page on the regular season. But I stand by what I said — nobody really cares who scores.”
At 36, Marian Hossa still is an effective, if not premier, two-way player. But the wear-and-tear of the long regular season and the grueling postseason take their toll. Hossa had two assists, 11 shots (six on goal) and was a plus-one in 29:33 of ice time in Game 1. He had no points, four shots (two on goal) and was a minus-1 in 17:03 of ice time in Game 2.
Staying fresh is a challenge for Hossa in his 17th NHL season. He acknowledged he wore down last year, when he slumped in the Western Conference final — scoring no goals and three points with a minus-4 rating against the Kings.
“It was definitely a long season — lots of games and especially long flights,” Hossa said. “It catches up to you. I didn’t have as much jump in the last game or two against L.A. as I did in the beginning.”
But he has tried to manage his conditioning this season to avoid that issue in the postseason.
“So far, I feel pretty good,” Hossa said prior to Game 2. “Kept my legs going. The end of the season, I felt pretty good skating-wise, too. So far, so good.”
The Hawks are looking for better starts after falling behind 3-0 in Game 1 and 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period of Game 2. Home ice should help —the Hawks scored the first goal in nine of 10 playoff games at the United Center last year.
“They were obviously feeding off the crowd in Nashville and they came out flying,” Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We need better starts as a group. We were able to tie it up [on Patrick Sharp’s goal] pretty shortly after they scored [in Game 2]. We’ve got a great team. if we have some better starts, we’ll be all right.”
Quenneville had hoped that rookie Teuvo Teravainen would fare better in his second career Stanley Cup playoff game than his first — when he had a the primary assist on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s goal that started the comeback from a 3-0 deficit. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
“I thought he played a real good Game 1. Did some good things,” Quenneville said. “Game 2 was just OK. I think there’s some things you get accustomed to as you go along —[working] the puck areas and utilizing your speed and strengths is something I’m sure he’ll get more comfortable with as we go along.”
Quenneville left open the possibility that veteran center Antoine Vermette — a healthy scratch in Games 1-2 — could play in Game 3 on Sunday at the United Center.
“We’ll look at a couple of options,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see on lineup changes [Sunday].”
Q’s Cups are half full
Benching Corey Crawford in favor of rookie Scott Darling in Game 3 is a sign of trouble —but more of an opportunity than a panic move to Quenneville.
“All part of the process,” Quenneville said. “You’ve got to make sure you try to get the momentum back when you don’t have it. You’re going to have some highs and lows; you’ve got to make some decisions — sometimes injury issues; sometimes health issues; sometimes it’s performance.
“We’ve got some great depth up front. We’ve got some depth on the back end. And we’ve got two really good goalies. We’re comfortable making some tough decisions here. Sometimes you get exposed to where you have to make some tough decisions. We don’t mind them. We welcome them. I think it makes us a deeper team.”