DETROIT -- Rarely does one shift set the tone for a game, but it would be hard to argue the Chicago Blackhawks' opening shift wasn't the difference in their 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
"It was a big first shift," Sharp said. "The three of us got the puck back a few times and created a goal."
The game was 27 seconds old when Sharp found a pinching Brent Seabrook, who opened the scoring.
The Hawks have played their best hockey in recent memory over the last game and a half. It corresponds with Sharp's return from a knee injury. As he shook the rust off midway through Wednesday's win over St. Louis, his team took off.
He's feeling better.
"A little bit," he said. "I did some different things before the game to get ready and I felt a little better skating, I think. I'll get better as we move along."
Sharp's contributions off the ice are as important as on it. He wears the 'A' for a reason.
"He got back way ahead of schedule," Joel Quenneville said. "His leadership and his presence [are important] and it [gives us] options we have as a coaching staff to do different things."
No one disagreed in the dressing room that the first shift, led by Sharp and Toews, set the tone.
"Oh, yeah definitely," Ben Smith said. "That was a huge shift for us. Especially coming off Wednesday when St. Louis scored 17 seconds in. For us to come out strong it was huge for our team."
And for Smith. His line, along with Patrick Kane and Michael Frolik was "pretty special" according to Quenneville. All of a sudden the Hawks have found two lines with instant chemistry. But maybe the start to the night came before the faceoff.
"You could sense it was a different type of approach going into the game," Quenneville said. "The urgency was in the guys' faces. The first shift exemplified that."
Obviously, the Hawks knew the importance of the moment and weren't about to let chance or good fortune dictate the outcome. They got their break on a video review against the Blues two nights earlier. This time nothing would be left to chance.
"We're adults, we're pros in here and most of all we respect and like each other in this locker room," Toews declared. "We're getting shots, we're blocking shots, winning draws, doing all the little things. We didn't give up too much against."
In other words, it was a complete effort. It hasn't happened enough this year but it happened at the most important time and the now the defending champs are on the verge of getting the opportunity to defend their title.