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Hawk Talk: Sharpen Up

by Jesse Rogers / Chicago Blackhawks

With no offense to Duncan Keith, who was also deserving, Patrick Sharp has a legitimate beef with the people that decide the All-Star game reserves.

On pace for over 40 goals and the league leader in shorties, he should be there. Add a respectable +11 for a team hovering at .500 and a shooting percentage that ranks 4th in the league, it all but should have sealed the deal. But that's not the case, as the powers that be decided guys like Henrik Sedin, Paul Stastny, and Anze Kopitar deserved it more.

Now don't get me wrong, those guys are good players. But Sharp is more deserving. Yeah, Sedin has 35 assists -- but only seven lousy goals. C'mon. Kopitar is a -12 for a team 12 games under.500. There were plenty of years when the Hawks did not have an All-Star representative. Do the Kings really deserve one? I don't think so.

Sharp's shorthanded prowess alone should have gotten him there. He has more than all but three TEAMS in the entire NHL. That's a game changing stat. Seven shorthanded goals halfway through the season is huge -- but apparently not huge enough.

More important to Hawk fans is how he has turned himself into a legitimate top six forward. When Sharp was traded here (remember Matt Ellison?) he was no more than a speedy guy that could be a decent third line center, and there was no guarantee he could be even that. It took him about 25 games to get his first goal and he was just a player that didn't look like he was playing with a ton of confidence.

For whatever reason, when Denis Savard took over, Sharp's game improved. His 20 goals last year and good penalty killing were a precursor to his play of this season. The biggest improvement for Sharp has been his ability to finish scoring chances. Whenever I think that trait is one that you either have or don't, a guy like Sharp comes along and simply gets better at it.

I've asked him and other players who have developed that ability how they do it. All they can tell me is they trust their ability and have the confidence to be aggressive (see shorthanded play). There 's that word again, confidence. Do you get it by being successful, or does the success come because you have it already? I don't know and I don't care, but once you get a taste of it (success and confidence), the sky's the limit.

I'm sure Sharp thought he won the lottery when he was put on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But just because he was put there doesn't mean he was going to light it up. Players have to take advantage of their opportunities, and Sharp is a guy who has worked hard to do so.

A two-way player who looks to shoot first is exactly what the Hawks needed out of him and he is not disappointing.

If Sharp continues his rise, can you imagine what a Kane, Toews, Sharp line will look like over the next few years? Remember, six months or so ago, these three had never skated together on the same ice. They already seem like they've been playing together for years.

Toews' injury obviously has slowed Sharp's production, but that's a temporary slow down. At least I think it is. Maybe the recent slowdown is the reason why Sharp did not make the All-Star team.

Regardless, the silver lining is that he continues to fly under the radar. Can you be a potential 40 goal scorer AND lead the league in shorthanded goals but still fly under the radar?

If anyone can, it's Patrick Sharp.

Email pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at: Listen to "Inside the Hawks" with Jesse and special Hawk guests Thursdays from 8-9 pm on WSCR 670-AM.

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