Will Sharp be the difference tonight?
Tonight, Patrick Sharp is due back on the Blackhawks roster, as indicated by Brandon Pirri being sent back to Rockford. Sharp needs to be the difference maker in tonight's game against Buffalo. Chicago struggled without him.
On Saturday, the Blackhawks did not look at their best. Passing was off key, the defense had a hard time stymieing Detroit's offense, and the power play was not clicking. In short, the Blackhawks strayed away from their best game: speedy offense and tough defense.
Instead of making short, quick passes in the offensive zone, they tried to make plays that simply were not there. Instead of checking the opposing offense, they gave deadly guys like Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Zetterberg their space. Men were lost in coverage. Goals were scored on bad shots.The Blackhawks weren't horrid. Detroit just outplayed them. There wasn't enough will to win.
When Patrick Sharp hits the ice this evening, he will have to be the difference maker. He needs to be the guy to turn to on the power play, and he'll need to play at his very best. On Saturday, the second line had trouble making anything happen. With Sharp back, faceoffs need to be won, puck battles in the corner need to be won, and offensive rushes must be productive. Too many opportunities were missed on Saturday.
The second line is a make or break line for most teams. If the line performs admirably, the team has a much better chance at winning games. If it is invisible, the other three lines must carry that line's weight. The latter occurred Saturday night. The third and fourth line were working their rears off to keep the game close in the third period.
Grinders Bryan Bickell and Jack Skille were the stars of the Blackhawks on Saturday, with Bickell scoring a goal and marking eight hits. Skille's 4 hits and constant energy made the fourth line a constant threat. That shouldn't be asked of third and fourth line players (although it is nice to see the bottom six forwards working hard). The top lines need to step up and give the same energy the third and fourth lines are giving.
Here's where Sharpie comes in. Patrick Sharp has great players with him on Line #2. Kane and Pisani are spectacular wingers. Expecting at least one goal out of that line tonight doesn't seem like too much to ask. Seeing how the game turned out Saturday, it could make all of the difference.