Let’s face it, the Chicago Blackhawks are stacked with star power, no one can deny that. Any number of Blackhawks can have breakout years, but 2014 will be the season of the Patrick’s.
The 32-year-old winger is coming off a 2014 season where he scored 34 goals (second highest of his career) and dished out 44 assists (most of his career). What is more impressive is this “Sharp Dressed Man” suited up for all 82 regular season contests for the Blackhawks, a feat he’s only accomplished one other time in his career. As mentioned in the Chicago Tribune, Sharp (or ‘Shooter’ as Duncan Keith anointed him early in his career) had a career high 313 shots on goal in 2014 to go along with his 78 points.
Patrick Sharp will come across many opportunities to put the biscuit in the basket playing wing man to the Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa line as well as continuing to man the point during power plays. This isn’t a new spot for Sharp, but outside of in-game tinkering, Coach Quenneville wants that top line to remain in tact. With Toews ability to create, Hossa’s dangerous stick, and Sharpies filthy ability to fire a shot at any time will propel the “Red Wedding Line” to not only the top of the Blackhawks scoring charts, but to the top of the NHL’s as the most dangerous line in 2014-15.
Oh, remember when I mentioned Sharp fired an astonishing 313 shots on goal in 2013-14? Well the 2011 Chicago Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful Chicagoan’s cover boy is at it again in this early season. So far in 2014 Sharp has blasted 13 shots on goal, with six being blocked and two more pucks that missed the net entirely. 13 doesn’t sound like a huge number? Well if Sharp continues the pace he’ll pepper contending goaltenders with an astonishing 533 shots, and if he continues to score at his career rate, he’ll amass 63 goals in the current campaign. That my friends is considered a banner year.
Humpty hump, Black Magic, Superman, Showtime, PK, Pattykane, or Kaner; whatever you call Patrick Kane the nickname probably fits. Kane is gifted with unbelievable stick-handling skills, the likes I haven’t seen since a young Jaromir Jagr from his days in Pittsburgh.
Why is Kane going to have a breakout year? Well simply because he is Patrick Kane, but beyond that Kane will be a major playmaker on the ‘Hustle & Flow’ line paired with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. After coach Joel Quenneville had thoughts of tossing Brad Richards on Kane’s line to man the second line center position, he quickly changed his mind and brought the gang back together.
If you remember the Hustle & Flow line was the biggest reason the Blackhawks were able to rally from a three games to one disadvantage against the LA Kings in last season’s Western Conference finals match-up. Saad, Shaw and Kane accounted for 17 points in the final three games of that series, and their cohesion not only extended their season but created what could be one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL in 2014-15.
Ok, yeah I get it. Kaner is on that line and he’s good, but where’s the proof, the meat and potatoes proof that he’ll put up another banner year? Here we go. Thus far in 2014-15, the Chicago power play has been rather successful, scoring on 22% of their power play opportunities. Since the end of preseason, when this article came about, the Blackhawks’ power play has been aggressive, with 10 power play shots and a pair of goals in the team’s two games.
Kane is a major contributing factor on the Blackhawks power play. He is asked to run a lot of the power play from the circle, moving, dazzling, passing, and shooting pucks towards open scorers or the back of the net.
Kane has already hoisted 10 shots on net, and expect that number to continue as he is the biggest scoring threat on his line. Doing the math that extends out to just over 400 shots on goal and netting around 45 goals.
Putting nets in the back of the net is only half of Kaners offensive skill set; he is also one of the most gifted passers in the NHL, never accounting for less than 40 assists in a given year, besides the strike shortened year of 2012-13 where he set up 32 of his teammates. Sitting on a line in which a lot of the defensive attention will be on Kane, that will open up shooting lanes for the others on the line to get open and receive well placed bullet passes for easy tap in goals.
Chicago’s two Patrick’s are immensely skilled hockey players, which both are in their prime years –Kane just entering his while Sharp is at the tail end of his. This is going to bode extremely well for the two players in the 2014-15 campaign.
Kane, being a playmaker that will be the focal point of his line, but is also asked to double-shift when the Blackhawks are down or short a man. Sharpie will have tons of scoring chances playing alongside Toews and Hossa, while both of them are key players on the man advantage.
Without further adieu, here are my predictions for Kane and Sharp this season.
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