By Larry Wigge
Patrick Sharp is one of the single-most creative players for the Chicago Blackhawks ... over the years.
He does things naturally that all coaches want from their players -- shoots masterfully, passes flawlessly, stickhandles like a demon. He's a good player with the puck and a very, very intelligent hockey player without it. He never looks out of place at center or either wing. He has skill and quickness. But most of all, he's smart and has a natural hockey instincts for the game.
Patrick Sharp is Blackhawks hockey -- fast, active, dangerous.
"There are too many factors outside of just what we see from his play on the ice," Chicago GM Stan Bowman emphasized. "There's a lot of other things that reporters and fans don't see. He's a very important player for our group here ..."
Trying to find the right word -- the right phrase -- Bowman continued, "Kind of the fabric of our team."
So much a part of the Chicago scene. The fabric. Perfect.
Patrick Sharp has scored 34 and 33 goals the last two seasons, a clear cut tipoff of the kind of skill and talent he has.
But, this year, he has gone long stretches without doing the things that made him so valuable to the Blackhawks. That was the thing he was talking about before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins.
"We've been talking about getting more involved, being more active in the offensive end of things," Sharp reasoned, after having only one point in the three games of the finals plus another four games.
Sharp's magical hands and legs made an appearance in a 6-5 overtime victory to even the Final series against Boston as he parked himself in front of the net and lifted one high into the net behind the Bruins Tuukka Rask. The Hawks evened the Finals at two games apiece thanks to defenseman Brent Seabrook scored in sudden death for the winner ... but not without some help from Patrick Sharp.
Still, Sharp was a beast. He was clearly the most dominating player on the ice for the Blackhawks with his one goal, eight shots, four hits and two blocked shots.
But a botched celebration that followed Patrick's goal as he fell to the ice behind the Boston net.
"Yeah, I'm out of practice," said Sharp, with a laugh.
Patrick Sharp suffered through a mess of injuries and had just six goals and 14 assists in his 28 games. In the playoffs, he has been streaky -- as his league-leading 10 goals and six assists in 21 games attests.
Sharp sometimes flies under the radar, but just like in 2010, he seems to be the most consistent producer you have. Is he just a guy that embraces the
"Well, Sharpy has had a good playoff and I thought he scored a huge goal for our power play and for himself and for our team," coach Joel Quenneville said. "The last few games, he seems like he's getting the puck a lot more and getting opportunities around the net.
"Certain guys get opportunities and certain guys get a little bit more attention than others come playoff time. But like we said all along, we don't care who scores, but we like the fact that he's been productive."
Goalie Corey Crawford echoed those remarks, "He's been really good. That quick shot of his just handcuffs goalies sometimes ... surprises them. His speed is underestimated, just how fast that guy can skate with the puck. He's definitely one of our top guys and we need him to be at his best, which he has been."
Sharp's work ethic comes from his parents. Patrick's dad, who was born in Scotland and adopted as an infant by a Canadian family, ran a successful doughnut business, which started out as one store, Robin's Doughnut Shop, in 1975. The elder Sharp has expanded the business to more than 400 shops throughout Canada and the United States. His mom worked in the doughnut business as well, until Patrick and his older brother Chris were born.
The best advice Sharp ever got came from his dad.
"I always remember him telling me not to get sidetracked, to pick something in life that excited me and give it all I've got," Sharp said. "From the days when I would tag along with my brother, Chris, I always wanted to be a hockey player.
"I never forgot, or got sidetracked, from the thought that a lot of younger players I played with coming through the ranks got chances when I knew I was better than them."
And it all started in the Sharp's driveway with his brother and the neighborhood NHL wannabes.
"I was always Mike Modano, even if I didn't have his size or speed," Sharp said. "The other player I started watching when I got to Vermont was Martin St. Louis. I remember admiring the way he beat the odds -- scouts saying he was too small to make it -- all the way to NHL MVP and a Stanley Cup."
At Vermont, Sharp completed two years of a business degree.
"I always liked math and finance," he said. "If I wasn't a hockey player I would work in the small business field. I would have been proud to follow in my dad's footsteps."
There's nothing normal about Patrick Sharp's story. He has always had to prove himself to coaches and scouts. When he was 15, he wasn't even drafted by a junior team because of his diminutive stature.
"I was 5-foot-7, 140-pounds playing against guys 6-1, 6-2 and nearly 200 pounds," Sharp said in answer to an obstacle he had to overcome in life.
But being undrafted didn't rattle Sharp. It just made him more determined to prove the skeptics wrong. By the time he was about 17, he grew to 6-1, 190-pounds and spurned the Ontario Hockey League for the University of Vermont. In his freshman year, scouts finally began to notice his speed, tenacity and hockey smarts. The Flyers selected him in the third round, 95th overall, in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
He was involved in one of the most lopsided trades of all time -- Chicago acquired Sharp and Eric Meloche from Philadelphia for winger Matt Ellison and a third-round draft choice.
But ... Patrick Sharp, concussed or not, turned himself into a goal scorer. A fabric of the Chicago Blackhawks organization.