Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp really wants a spot on Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Friday night's effort against Colorado makes Sharp's case as neatly as possible for a trip to Sochi in February.
Sharp celebrated his 32nd birthday in style in front of a packed house at the United Center. He provided the entertainment at his own party to the tune of his third career hat trick.
In a key Central Division contest, Sharp did everything short of making balloon animals out of the visiting Avalanche. Chicago overwhelmed a sluggish Colorado squad 7-2. If Sharp needed to show the powers that be why he merits a roster spot, mission accomplished.
Sharp got things started at the 12:27 mark of the opening period when he decided to stay out a bit longer on a shift change. Duncan Keith found him at the Avs blue line, leading to Sharp skating in and beating Jean-Sebastian Giguere to the far corner.
Up 2-0 late in the first thanks to a Jonathan Toews goal, Sharp struck again, this time on the power play. Another feed from Keith resulted in a clear shot from the top of the right circle that kissed the twine.
Just 27 seconds into the second period, Sharp gave Chicago a 4-0 advantage and completed the hat trick by backhanding a rebound of a Niklas Hjalmarsson shot past Giguere. Strangely enough, Sharp's finest work of the night lay ahead.
Colorado looked to have a chance to get on the board in the ninth minute when the Avs caught Chicago in the middle of a line change. Matt Duchene came into the 'Hawks zone with a head of steam and a clear path to the net. Enter Sharp, who caught the speedy Duchene from behind, lifted his stick and cleanly swiped the puck.
Sharp turned up the ice and hit Toews with a stretch pass. The Chicago captain then entered the Colorado zone, stick-handled Gigeure out of position and deposited the puck to the back of the net.
The slick backcheck gave Sharp a four-point night and as exciting a defensive play as you may see this season. Leave it to Sharp to log the highlight of the evening after securing his hat trick.
While Toews and Keith appear to be locks for the Olympic roster, Blackhawks like Sharp and Brent Seabrook may have to sway the minds of Team Canada director Steve Yzerman and coach Mike Babcock. In Sharp's case, the numbers have to impress the decision-makers.
Sharp is now sixth in the NHL in goals scored with 21. His 40 points place him ninth overall in that category. Among Canadian skaters, he ranks third and fifth, respectively.
The competition to represent Canada in Sochi is intense, to say the least. A lot of deserving players may be on the outside looking in when the final roster is revealed in January.
Sharp is a dangerous sniper who plays well on both sides of the ice. He is in the midst of a hot streak. Friday's performance in a big 'Hawks victory may or may not have made a decision for Yzerman. However, Sharp's birthday party at the Madhouse on Madison should give him something to chew on.
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