ST. PAUL, Minn. — Take it from someone who knows, Patrick Sharp hasn’t lost his touch.
“He’s got a great shot,” said Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was beaten by Sharp for a back-breaking goal in Game 2 on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
“It’s not a secret that Patrick Sharp can shoot the puck. He knows how to change angles. He knows how to have a set-up and where to shoot it. It was a great shot.”
After the least productive full season of his career, Sharp has regained the touch that has made him an integral part of the Blackhawks’ golden era.
The 33-year-old Sharp scored 16 goals and 43 points, with a minus-8 rating in 68 regular-season games. He scored on just 7.0 percent of his shots on goal — well below his career average of 11.9 percent coming into this season.
But Sharp has always been a productive playoff performerand this season has been no different. He had four goals and nine points, with a plus-3 rating in nine postseason games heading into Game 4 of the Hawks’ series with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. He’s scoring on 12.9 percent of his shots.
With his goal in Game 2, Sharp has scored at least one goal in his last 19 playoff series — going back to his rookie year with the Philadelphia Flyers (against the Tampa Bay Lightning) in 2004. The next-longest streaks on the Hawks are Kane (eight) and Toews (six).
“He’s been around the league,” teammate Brad Richards said. “The 82-game grind gets a lot harder when you get into your mid-30s. It’s not the same as being 25 and bringing that enthusiasm to the rink.
“He’s been professional. He’s gone through it and he didn’t like it. But the playoffs is a brand-new season. You feel rejuvenated. And he also knows he can rely on his [experience] and know he’s good in the playoffs. That helps a lot.”
Sharp disagreed with the notion that he was pacing himself. But he can’t ignore the numbers that indicate a rejuvenation in the playoffs.
“I’m not in my mid-30s yet. I’m still in my early 30s,” Sharp pleaded to laughter at a press conference prior to Game 4. “But I know what Brad’s getting at. I agree with it to an extent.
“You play hard every time you’re on the ice. Things get magnified and pumped up that much more in the playoffs. I’m not sure if ‘saving yourself’ is the right way [to put it]. But you definitely want to prepare differently and time it.”
Sharp is a proud, competitive athlete who has a high profile on the NHL’s marquee team, yet plays in the shadow of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Nobody talks about his 200-foot game when he’s not scoring. But his impact on the Hawks can’t be overstated.
“I’ve really respected him the last few years,” teammate Andrew Shaw said. “When he gets in one of those droughts that everyone gets into, he shuts his mouth and works as hard as he can to get out of it. To see that as another player, it’s huge.”
Sharp has scored 249 career goals in the regular season. He has 42 career playoff goals — only eight active players have scored more.
“He knows what it takes to win,” Shaw said. “He knows what it takes to score big goals. When he gets those opportunities, he’s going to put them in. He’s flying around. He’s going as hard as he can. He works hard. He forechecks. He gets pucks pack. He’s going to take pucks to the net and we need that from him.”