I’m not a statistician, but your team’s odds for a victory must skyrocket when one player produces four assists during a single period. Normally, Patrick Sharp plays the role of sniper for the Chicago Blackhawks, but tonight he was the one making the precise passes. The 2011 All-Star Game MVP earned four helpers during a wild second period, as the Hawks out-scored the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in that middle frame and ultimately earned a 6-3 win.
Sharp wasn’t the only big-name Blackhawks forward to come through in what some might call a “statement game.” Marian Hossa began that wild second period with two power-play goals, Jonathan Toews continued his torrid run with a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane reached a career milestone with his 100th goal. Kane became the third youngest Blackhawk to reach 100 goals, behind two nobodies named Jeremy Roenick and Bobby Hull.
The Sharks’ big guns contributed, albeit in a losing effort. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scored one goal each for San Jose.
Antti Niemi performed outstandingly well against his old team in their first three meetings this season, but his former teammates gained a measure of revenge by chasing him from the Sharks’ net tonight. Niemi’s 25th consecutive start ended early, as he was yanked from the game in favor of former starter Antero Niittymaki about seven minutes into that wacky second. Niemi allowed four goals on 18 shots while Niittymaki was beaten twice on 14.
Corey Crawford has been a workhorse for Chicago in his own right, as he was the Hawks starter for the 15th time in a row. The surprisingly effective rookie won his 27th game of the 2010-11 season – one more than Niemi, by the way – after he made 33 out of 36 saves.
This win places Chicago in fourth place with 84 points, even if such a spot is typically tenuous. For the most part, the Blackhawks have been red-hot lately, as they even earned two points during their recent three-game skid. They’ve been especially stout at the United Center, winning five games in a row in the Windy City.
Every time it seems like the Sharks are going to run away with the Pacific Division, they seem to hit a speed bump. After producing an eight-game winning streak, San Jose went 1-2-2 in their last five games. They still have a three-point lead in the division, although the Los Angeles Kings have a game in hand.
In other words, this game didn’t solve anything for either team, but there shouldn’t be much of a question about how much of a threat Chicago will be if they actually make the playoffs.