Sharp adding playmaker label to game

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
3:54
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp is usually a go-to player for the media because he gives thoughtful, lengthy answers to most questions.

Sharp sat in front of his dressing-room stall a few times last week, took questions after practice and was his normal self, talking about upcoming games, the Central race and the team's play.

[+] EnlargePatrick Sharp
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesPatrick Sharp is two assists and two points away from matching his career bests of 41 assists and 71 points.
All was fine until Sharp was asked about his lack of scoring. Immediately, his tone changed and his answers shortened. He remained courteous and answered the goal-related questions, but he was frustrated the focus was always on his scoring.

While Sharp went eight games without a goal from March 4-19, he contributed an assist in seven of those games. Tack on a goal and assist on March 1 and a goal on March 21 and Sharp produced 11 points in the span of 10 games. It was his most consistent offensive production of the season. Yet he found himself being asked about his goals.

"It does bother me because it doesn't really work the other way as well," Sharp said to ESPNChicago.com on Sunday. "It's not really a vice versa scenario. When I am scoring, it's just considered what I'm supposed to do.

"Recently, I had gone a few games without scoring a goal, but my production had been higher than it has been all season over a 10-game stretch and all I heard about what was not scoring goals. If I was a little bit younger, it would probably bother me a little bit more, but at this point, I know what I can bring as a player. I just focus on that."

Sharp has been an elite goal scorer for the Blackhawks in recent seasons -- reaching 30 goals in a season for the fourth time in his career Friday -- but he's also a player who has worked on his passing skills and can be relied upon for 40-plus assists a year.

Of the 13 NHL players with at least 30 goals this season, Sharp trails only Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Ryan Getzlaf in assists. On the Blackhawks, Sharp is second among forwards in assists, just one shy of Patrick Kane.

Sharp isn't looking for comparisons to former Blackhawks great Stan Mikita when it comes to passing, but he is proud of how far he has come in that area.

"Just over the years, I think I've improved that aspect of my game," Sharp said. "When I first scored 30 goals, I think it was 2007-08, I was more of a straight shooter. Skate down the ice and then try to get the puck to the net in any way. Over the years, I've turned into not the best passer, but one who can set up my teammates and help out that way.

"I like to think I've become more than a goal scorer at this point of my career. My playmaking ability, ability to just put up points and offensive production has improved every year. As far as scoring goals, hitting 30 is a big mark, but I like to think I can get more."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has taken notice that Sharp has developed into a multidimensional player.

"He's had a big year for us," Quenneville said Sunday. "I think offensively, whether it's his numbers point-wise or his production in goals, it's been nice and consistent. And that's a pretty remarkable number in today's game, scoring 30. And who knows, he's got some time left. We'll see what he ends up with. Certainly a nice offensive contribution from Sharpie this year."

With 10 games remaining, Sharp has a chance to match or surpass some of his season-high numbers. He is two assists from matching his 41 assists in 2009-10. Two more points would tie his 71 in the 2010-11 season. He's also six goals from his 36-goal total in 2006-07.

"I've said a bunch of times I feel like I've gotten better as a player over the years," Sharp said. "I think I can still improve in some different areas. Some areas that don't always result in stats and points I can improve. I'm happy with the season I'm having up to this point, but I realize there's a big chunk to go and the most important season in the playoffs. We have a long way to go, but at this point I'm very satisfied."
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26