CHICAGO -- As Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was considering his options at this season’s trade deadline, he put into the equation that the Blackhawks would be adding a healthy Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to the roster for their playoff run.
Hossa and Sharp both missed spurts during the regular season due to injuries and combined for 23 goals and 28 assists. Their production wasn’t nearly as consistent as it was the season before, when they were first and second, respectively, on the team in points.
Bowman was banking on them returning to form once healthy.
"Some people would say those would be two nice trade deadline additions, to have Hossa and Sharp come back,” Bowman said prior to the deadline in April. “That’s one way to look at it. ... You add both of those guys to the lineup and it certainly gives us a very dangerous look offensively.”
Hossa and Sharp have since made Bowman’s comments look quite smart. The duo so far has done everything the Blackhawks could have hoped they’d do in the playoffs.
On Saturday, they continued their playoff roll, each scoring a goal to key a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference finals series.
Together they’ve combined for 24 points in 13 playoff games. Sharp leads the NHL with eight playoff goals and has four assists. Hossa has six goals and six assists.
“It’s huge. They’re playing great,” Patrick Kane said. “Sharpie and Hoss both are contributing with a lot of nice plays and some goals. That’s what you need from those guys. They’re goal scorers, and especially when myself or [Jonathan Toews] aren’t chipping in too much on the offense, it’s nice having those guys back you up and scoring goals.”
Sharp put the Blackhawks on the board first on Saturday. He dropped a pass off to defenseman Johnny Oduya and skated toward the net as Oduya took a shot from near the blue line. The puck deflected off Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick's pad, and Sharp was in perfect position to knock in the rebound.
“I said on the ice we got six [defensemen] who can all attack, who can all make plays, and Johnny Oduya made a great play to activate and jump up,” said Sharp, who played in 28 regular-season games. “That’s something I think every team works on in practice -- to shoot off that pad and go to the net for the rebound. I was fortunate it came right to me.”
Less than four minutes later, Hossa chipped in with his own goal. Off a shot from Duncan Keith, Hossa got a piece of the puck with his stick and redirected into the net to put the Blackhawks ahead 2-1 in the second period.
Hossa’s impact was something the Blackhawks missed for much of the playoffs last season. Hossa suffered a season-ending head injury in Game 3 of their first-round series last year and didn’t return for the final three games.
Hossa has recorded at least a point in eight of the Blackhawks’ nine playoff wins this season. He has one point in their four losses.
“Marian is such an important player because of all the different things he does,” Bowman said on Friday. “[He's] not limited to scoring goals. He kills penalties. He's probably our most responsible winger in terms of tough situations. Joel [Quenneville] trusts to put him on the ice. He can shut down offensive players on the other team and he can also score goals and make plays.
“When you add all that up, his contribution is huge. I think we've also seen the way he plays sort of rubs off on some of our younger players, the two-way game he has. When you're practicing with a guy like that every day for a couple years, you understand how to play the game the right way. All those things have been instrumental in getting our team game to where it is now.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter knows exactly the difference Hossa and Sharp made in Game 1.
“I think the two guys who scored for them are going to score goals,” Sutter said. “We have guys who have to score goals. That’s how close it’ll be.”