Hawks' confidence surging at right time
March, 30, 2012
By Jesse Rogers
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks are 10-2-2 since acquiring Johnny Oduya.CHICAGO -- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is on pace to return from a concussion before the end of the season, but at least one Hawk is confident they can keep winning -- if they have to -- without him.
"You're talking about a guy that led us there before," Sharp said on "The Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 on Friday. "He's a great player. He plays in a lot of different situations. There is no question he is going to help us.
"I can't sit here and tell you our hopes rest on Jonathan Toews. We've done a good job without him. We've rallied behind each other ... I'd like to think we can win without him. We have to play as if he's not coming back. We can't sit around and wait for him to come back and save us."
The Hawks are 12-5-2 without Toews in the lineup. He's been out since a Feb. 19 game against St. Louis but is close to returning. His final hurdle is taking contact. He's been ruled out for games this weekend.
"Absolutely he's a great player and we welcome him back whenever he's ready," Sharp said.
It wasn't long after Toews' injury the Hawks acquired defenseman Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline and their defensive play improved. With Oduya in the lineup the Hawks are 10-2-2.
"We call him the savior around the rink," Sharp said. "He adds so much to the defense."
But Sharp thinks the seeds to the improved defensive play were planted well before Oduya arrived. In failing, the Hawks learned their lessons.
"It goes all the way back to that [nine-game] losing streak around the All-Star break," Sharp said. "We learned a few lessons. We learned the NHL cracks down, play is more defensive after the break and everything tightens up. We needed to do the same."
Since Oduya joined the team the Hawks are averaging 2.42 goals against. That's considerably lower than their season average to that point.
"We really clamped down, not giving teams a whole lot against us," Sharp said.
The one area of concern for the Hawks heading into the playoffs is their power play. It's fallen to 25th in the league, producing just one shot on net over the last 11 attempts. Sharp is hopeful it can turn around, even now.
"You look at a team like the Boston Bruins who won the Cup last year," he said. "They had a terrible power play all through the playoffs but finally got it together in the finals and won the Cup."
As for who the Hawks might play in the postseason, Sharp isn't making any guesses -- or bulletin board material for other teams.
"You get into trouble if you start picking where you want to finish or who you want to play against," Sharp stated. "That just motivates other teams and you set yourself up for disaster."
The Hawks are currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. A loss by the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night will clinch a playoff berth for Chicago.