The Chicago Blackhawks have come back from a 2-0 deficit in games to take a 3-2 series lead over the St. Louis Blues. This is impressive in its own right, but becomes even more so when one considers that Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad have not yet shown up for the series.
Saad’s struggles extend all the way back to mid-March. He hasn’t scored a goal in 18 games, and has looked jumpy while handling the puck in the offensive zone. His defensive game hasn’t suffered to any noticeably degree, but the complete disappearance of Saad’s usual offensive punch has essentially rendered him a vanilla third-line grinder.
The issues for Sharp are more concerning, mostly due to the fact that he is expected to contribute more than Saad is. Sharp has been Chicago’s worst forward in the five games against the Blues, and it isn’t particularly close either; he has been turning the puck over at an alarming rate and has yet to record a point in the series. Sharp has also been shirking his own-zone responsibilities a bit in favor of pursuing offense, something he rarely did during the regular season.
The Blackhawks have been able to make do without these two, relying heavily on Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Ben Smith has been a revelation as well, and seems to have permanently wrestled the second-line center spot away from Michal Handzus.
Chicago may very well get by the Blues with Sharp and Saad failing to make themselves relevant, but a deep playoff run will require these two to snap out of their respective funks.