Emotional Patrick Sharp says goodbye to Blackhawks, fans, United Center

Emotional Patrick Sharp says goodbye to Blackhawks, fans, United Center

It was inevitable.

Patrick Sharp's NHL career was likely coming to a close at the end of the season and nobody wanted to admit it, especially not himself.

But when No. 10 hit the ice for pregame warmups in the final home game sporting an "A" on his red sweater like old times, it was evident.

And when the United Center video board showed his entrance out of the tunnel and stayed panned on him as he skated a few laps before the starters were introduced, which, oh by the way, he was a part of and announced last, it became even more apparent.

Then came the third period.

During the final TV timeout of the game, a video montage titled "Thank You Sharpy" aired before Sharp acknowledged a sold-out crowd of 22,218 — the largest of the season — and teared up while doing so.

After the final buzzer, Sharp's teammates forced him to skate to center ice by himself, where he saluted the fans one final time, shook the hands of a few St. Louis Blues players, Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff and skated a victory lap.

It was the perfect way to go out.

"It was a tough game out there, tough to concentrate with what was going on inside my head," said Sharp, whose parents came to town for this. "But, thankful that I was able to do that and the Hawks put that video on for me in the third, which was really special, and the guys standing out on the ice and making me do a lap was something I'll always remember. It was a special night."

Sharp confirmed after the game that this will be his last season in the NHL, a decision he was trying to delay for as long as he could.

"I think I've known what I wanted to do for a long period of time here and it's never easy, you know?" Sharp said. "But I think I'm just ready to take that next step in my life, and looking forward to it."

Sharp is one of three Blackhawks — along with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — to have been around during both the dark ages and the renaissance of winning three Stanley Cups.

"Lot of good memories," Sharp said. "All of the games, obviously winning the Stanley Cup the third time on home ice was cool. Just generally speaking, from 2005 until now, how far we've come as an organization and as a team. All the great players I've played with. I'm lucky to be part of it, to be honest with you."

Said Joel Quenneville: "You look back and you think about today's game, and you think about the championships that he was a significant part of and the contribution he made to the team and how he was respected in the locker room, and his leadership and one of the guys [that] was a big part of the success we had.

"It was one of those nights when you think about all the good situation he had here in Chicago and his family grew up here, a lot of good things happened. He was a big part of the community as well. So I wasn't thinking more so about today as opposed to what he has accomplished for us. It was good reflecting back. His career here was special."

As far as what's next, Sharp said he'll take the next couple of months after the season off to enjoy some time away from hockey and continue living in Chicago: "I'm not going anywhere."

The plan for Sharp was always to move back to Chicago when it was all said and done, even if he didn't re-sign here last offseason.

But the fact that he did made it even more special, giving one of the best Blackhawks a proper send-off.

"You never want to come to grips with it to be honest with you," Sharp admitted. "But that's probably one of the reasons I came back. Chicago's my home and it's my family's home. We mentioned that when we left the first time. I'm grateful that I was able to come back and play this year. I know it hasn't been the season that we've all wanted but it really does mean a lot to me."

Despite successful stretch, Blackhawks trying to put together full 60-minute effort

Despite successful stretch, Blackhawks trying to put together full 60-minute effort

The Blackhawks have won eight of their past 10 games, and have played themselves into a wildcard race after their playoff hopes appeared to be all but dead just a month ago. But they’re not satisfied with where their game is at.

The Blackhawks have put together this solid run without playing a full 60-minute game they’re comfortable with, and have gotten off track a little bit.

On Saturday night against Columbus, the Blackhawks had a slow start, a dominant second period and relapsed in the third period. On Thursday against Vancouver, they had another slow start, a good second period and survived the third. And on Tuesday against Boston, they weren’t very good all around.

While picking up a chunk of points is crucial at this time of year, the Blackhawks are more focused on the process and the way they’re playing. And right now they don’t like where it’s trending.

“We played the way we played the last few games,” Jonathan Toews said following Saturday’s 5-2 loss. “Obviously we didn’t have the 60, the full 60 that we wanted. There’s still some good spurts in there that allowed us to stay in the game. ... Just need to get back to having that 60-minute effort.

“When we do that, all four lines get engaged and we get contributions from all over. I think we need to be a little bit more consistent, play a complete game and things will go our way.”

The encouraging part of their successful stretch is that they’ve been finding ways to win despite not playing their best. That’s an internal belief.

Now the Blackhawks actually want to start playing their best, and not just getting away with it when they don’t. There have still been some positive developments, but putting it all together has been a challenge.

“A lot of the things are still there,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I’m not sure it’s so different. I think the results are different. We have a need to improve. ... I’m not going to get too high or too low. The result’s bad, so what? Let’s move on to the next one.

“Like I said to the players after the game, the negative is we lost two points and we missed an opportunity to close the gap in the race that we’re in. But the positive is also we were in a bad spot and turned the game. And we were right there. Let’s find a way to do it for more of the 60 minutes and we’re good enough.”

In Saturday’s case, the Blackhawks played a very good Blue Jackets team in the thick of a playoff race of their own in the Eastern Conference and that's a team that gives a lot of clubs problems with the way they possess the puck and generate scoring chances. Surviving those pushes and capitalizing when the Blackhawks have control is something they've harped ever since Colliton took over as head coach, and for the most part they've done that recently.

They just have to get back to doing it on a more consistent basis.

“Sometimes you’re going to play some teams that are coming at you with everything they got,” Toews said. “So you got to kind of expect that even if you’re playing well, there’s times you just have to manage the situation in your own end and weather the storm, as they say.

"The fact that we’re still in games, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every single night even if we’re not playing our best hockey I think is showing how far we’ve come as a team. We know that there’s that next step that we need to take in these next 20 or so games. Points like tonight are so valuable, you can’t let them slip.”

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Four takeaways: Artemi Panarin guides Blue Jackets past Blackhawks in return to Chicago

Four takeaways: Artemi Panarin guides Blue Jackets past Blackhawks in return to Chicago

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in front of 22,196 fans — the largest crowd of the season — at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Blackhawks have no answer for Panarin-Dubois-Atkinson line

The Blue Jackets three leading scorers are Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin. A reason for that is they all play on the same line. And the Blackhawks had no answer for them.

Atkinson scored a goal, Dubois had a goal and an assist, and Panarin was named the first star of the game after scoring twice and adding a primary assist. Heck, the line nearly connected for a fifth goal but Atkinson was a smidge offside and it was overturned.

"I think we gave them their chances, whether we turned it over in the D-zone for a couple of their goals or they got a bounce going on a rush a couple times too," said Connor Murphy, who was on the ice for three of the five goals. "But they're a dangerous line and you gotta be more disciplined if you want to be better against them."

2. Struggling starts continue

The Blackhawks have been struggling out of the gates as of late. They gave up three more goals, and allowed 16 scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the opening frame, according to

Fortunately, they got one of their own when Patrick Kane found the back of the net to extend his point streak to 17 games. But the Blue Jackets — Panarin, who else? — responded 17 seconds later and then again with 46 seconds remaining in the period. The Blackhawks have now been outscored 8-3 in the first period in their past three games.

"We weren’t very good in the beginning of the game," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were sloppy with the puck and too loose defensively, and they got some pretty good players who put the puck in the net. So we made it hard on ourselves. We looked like, for a bit, that we were going to get out of the period 1-1 and then obviously that was tough to go down two like that."

3. Sergei Bobrovsky staves off second-period push

After being outscored 3-1 in the first period, the Blackhawks completely controlled the tempo in the second period. They outshot the Blue Jackets 20-9, had 11 scoring chances at 5-on-5 to their six, and scored a goal with 33.6 seconds left to give them some momentum going into intermission.

But that's all they got, thanks to a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie who stopped 39 of 41 shots for a save percentage of .951, with 33 of his 39 saves coming in the first two periods.

"He was good again tonight," Brent Seabrook said. "I think he's won the Vezina a couple times. Hell of a goalie."

4. Kane and Panarin share a moment

When the Blackhawks were in Columbus earlier this season, Kane and Panarin shared a funny moment at the end of warmups. Panarin waited for Kane to leave the ice before skating hard to the bench after Kane waved him on.

The bromance continued on Saturday night.

Kane and Panarin each took turns firing pucks at one another, with Panarin getting the last shot as Kane left ice. It was an enjoyable moment for Chicago fans between two former teammates who remain in touch.

"We have a pretty good relationship," Panarin said through a translator. "I kind of miss him a lot, so we decided to play around a little bit."

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