Sharp celebrates 32nd birthday with hat trick

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp has gotten a little more sensitive about his age as he has moved into his 30s.

Friday was his 32nd birthday, and it annoyed him at some level that his teammates were ribbing him for getting up in age.

To shut them up, and as a birthday gift to himself, Sharp went out and scored a hat trick in the Blackhawks' 7-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

"It's special any time you can do it, but on a birthday where some of the guys were giving some beef for being an old-timer makes it feel ever better," Sharp said. "[My birthdays are] starting to get annoying to be honest with you, seeing that number get up there. But I feel like I got a lot of years left. I still think I'm getting better in my career individually and I'm playing on a good team. Things are pretty good."

"Pretty good" may be deemed an understatement with the way Sharp has played for much of the season, especially in recent weeks. He has piled up 16 points, including 10 goals, over the Blackhawks' past nine games. His 21 goals on the season put him in a tie for fifth in the league and his 40 points are tied for eighth.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went as far as saying Sharp was having the best season of his career.

"He had a heck of a night," Quenneville said. "He had a great game. He's had his best season to date, consistency on both sides of the puck."

The play that most impressed Quenneville and that Sharp was most proud of in the game didn't even come on one of the goals.

The Avalanche's Matt Duchene was headed to the net on a breakaway. Sharp chased him down and knocked Duchene's stick as he pulled it back to shoot. Sharp gathered the puck, flung it down the ice and created a 2-on-1 opportunity, which Jonathan Toews finished for a goal.

"It was unreal," Toews said. "He was just determined to get back there and things turned around pretty quick. I was kind of thinking it was role reversal for once. I was the stretch guy hanging out at the far blue line, and he saw me kind of just hanging out over there. Nice defensive play and good heads-up play to get the puck back down the ice."

Sharp was on the receiving end of a similar chance on his first goal; he was standing at the blue line as both teams made line changes in the first period. Duncan Keith saw him and delivered a long-range pass. Sharp received the puck and took off. He beat the Avalanche's Jan Hejda in a race to the net and then beat Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a shot into the left corner.

On his second goal, Sharp took a pass from Keith near the top of the right circle, turned toward the net, skated a few feet and fired a shot past Giguere into the left corner.

Sharp took care of the third goal 27 seconds into the second period. Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson took a shot from near the blue line and created a rebound in front of the net. Sharp knocked the puck with a backhand shot near the bottom of the left circle. The puck bounced off Giguere and landed in the net. Moments later, hats rained onto the United Center's ice.

With the way Sharp has played this season and throughout his career, Toews is confident Sharp's 2014 will begin with him being named to Team Canada for the Olympics.

"I don't think that is even an option," Toews said of Sharp being excluded. "I think he's shown everything he can do as far as throughout his career since the last Olympics. Throughout this season, I don't think there's any holes in his game.

"Obviously he's scoring, but he's doing a lot of other things, too. That's a big reason why our line's successful right now and why our team's been successful not only this year, but in the playoffs the last few years. The last couple times we've won the Cup he's been there in those big moments. I think we've always known in this locker room that he's a type of player that deserves to play at that level and represent Team Canada and continues to prove it."

Even if he is now 32 years old.