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Blackhawks Tue Jan 06 2015

Patrick Sharp Picking Up Shot Tempo for Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks It's that time of year again when the Hawks and most other teams in the league tend to drift into a bit of a mid-season funk and create cause for concern. The latest evidence of that is the Hawks' tendency to play from behind by giving up soft- to not-too-difficult shots, most of which fly past Corey Crawford's glove side.

To the Hawks' credit, however, they've found a way to claw their way back into each game and salvage a few points here and there in the process. It makes for exciting hockey, for sure, but certainly isn't clearing the grey away from coach Joel Quenneville's mustache.

The Hawks have been giving up more shots lately, which translates to less puck possession and more goals against. So how to fix such a problem if the defense isn't there? Shoot more yourself, and the Hawks have Patrick Sharp to thank for the recent uptick in firepower.

In the last three games, the Hawks have given up a total of 109 shots compared to its previous three games in which they've allowed a total of 82. The Hawks' last game was a 5-4 win in overtime against the Dallas Stars in which the Hawks allowed 34 shots total while taking 38 shots in the process. Patrick Sharp led the team with six shots, including the eventual game winner at 1 minute, 17 seconds into overtime.

The game prior to that was the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals. The Caps had 35 shots, which matched the Hawks' output, but the only exception was a Troy Brower sniper with 13 seconds left in the game that gave them the 3-2 win, and a well-deserved banner celebration. Once again, Sharp led the Hawks in shots on goal with 10 and connected on one of them in the first period.

Then there was the game against the Predators in which the Hawks allowed 40 shots in a 5-4 win that went to a shootout. The Hawks fired 42 shots at Pekka Rinne who, despite giving up four goals in regulation, looked great in between the pipes for first-year head coach Peter Laviolette. Sharp was tied for second on the team with four shots in that game, which recently has been a little slow for him.

After taking a hit into the boards from the Canadiens' Alexei Emelin on November 4, Sharp was sidelined for a handful of weeks with a lower-body injury. He returned on December 9, against the Devils and fired five shots on net, which tied Marian Hossa for most on the team in that game. The Hawks won 3-2 in a shootout, and Sharp hasn't slowed down since.

What's impressive is how the numbers stack up against those with more games played, not just on his own team, but compared to others in the league. Sharp currently is tied for second with Hossa on the Hawks for most shots taken with 116. Patrick Kane leads the Hawks with 125, but both he and Hossa have played 14 more games than Sharp.

Overall, Sharp ranks thirty-sixth in the league with those 116 shots, just 70 behind league leader Alex Ovechkin, who has played 13 more games than Sharp.

Of course the convenience of having that much firepower translates into an iCORSI/60 stat that ranks near the top in the league -- fourth overall with a 21.16 line. As you might have guessed, Sharp leads the entire NHL in iFenwick/60 with a robust 16.64, which is .45 ahead of Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings who has played 15 more games than Sharp.

The Halfway point is a few games away and the Hawks are tied for the Central lead with the Preds at 54 points overall (26-11-2). Sharp has settled back into his role as the "Sharp Shooter" since coming back from injury, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down, despite the defense trying to clear the cobwebs. As long as Sharp can continue to put the puck on net, it'll help in the long run during the doldrums of mid-season play.

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