DALLAS — Patrick Kane has raised the bar yet another notch.
The Chicago Blackhawks forward, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has been outstanding this season, helping his club jump out to a league record 24-game points streak to start the season (21-0-3).
His lengthening highlight reel added another chapter March 16 in Dallas, when Kane’s spectacular third-period goal increased the Blackhawks’ lead to 8-1. It might have been somewhat meaningless, but it was a thing of beauty as he executed a perfect spin-o-rama move that led into a backhander that beat goaltender Richard Bachman past the glove.
“I knew the score was kind of up there a little bit, so I thought I’d have a little fun with it,” said Kane, who ranked sixth overall in the NHL with 15 goals, and sat fifth in the league with 34 points, through 28 games as of March 17.
His teammates were left in awe.
“That was unbelievable,” marveled Marian Hossa. “I see that in a practice, he always does that, but to do it in a game and to top-shelf it like that, it’s just pure skill.”
“You can see the magical things he can do with the puck,” added defenseman Nick Leddy. “He’s amazing.”
Overall, Kane, who recently recorded his 400th career NHL point even though he’s still just 24 and in his sixth season, doesn’t really feel like he’s doing anything differently than he did before.
“I don’t know, I think you’re playing with good players, the coach has faith and I’m getting a lot of ice time,” said Kane, who was averaging 20:09 of ice per game to lead all Chicago forwards. “And the team is doing well, so that’s going to help you too. But I still feel, and a lot of guys in here probably feel the same way, that we can reach another level, and I feel the same about myself.”
Dave Bolland, who has skated as Kane’s center most of the season, called Kane “A special kind of player.”
“The way he moves the puck — he’s one of the top players in the NHL these days,” Bolland said. “He’s taken it to another level now. He’s got the experience now, he’s been in the league for a number of years now and I think he knows what he can bring to the table.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville believes the improvement has to do with Kane sharpening his mental focus and perhaps displaying a more determined commitment to helping out on defense.
“You got to like the way he’s prepared himself game-in and game-out,” Quenneville said. “The consistency of his approach has been very noticeable. Offensively, he has the puck a lot and is skating as well as we’ve ever seen him and shooting the puck as well as we’ve seen him.
“But defensively, he’s got an awareness to his game — it seems like he’s getting pucks back and then when he does get it back, he does some good things with it. But we love the consistency of his game and his approach.”
Kane credits the two years he spent as a teenager at the U.S. National Team Development Program under Coach John Hynes (who now coaches Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL) as a major influence on his growth into a more complete player.
“I think for players like me, who were kind of under-developed at the age of 15 or 16, to have a chance to go to a program like that, where they really stressed working out and skating an hour and a half, two hours a day, in the long run, it’s really good for players,” said Kane, who went on to play one year for OHL London, winning the league scoring title with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) in just 58 games, before the Blackhawks selected him first overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
“I really enjoyed my time there, I thought it was a huge part of my development and Coach Hynes was awesome to me. He was very hard on me, but at the same time, he tried to get the best out of me. I’m really happy I went there.”
Kane has been a fixture for Team USA ever since. He helped the stars and stripes win bronze at the 2007 World Junior Championships before joining the national team for the 2008 World Championships, and of course, serving as a key offensive catalyst on the U.S. squad at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“It’s unbelievable [representing your country],” the 5-foot-11, 181-pound Kane said. “I think any time you get a chance to do that, it’s quite an honor, and to put that sweater on, it’s really a great feeling.”
Even though Team USA lost the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game in overtime to Canada, Kane, who assisted on both American goals to lead a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, still looks back on the entire experience in Vancouver fondly.
“Yeah, you want to win the gold,” acknowledged Kane, who recorded three goals and five points in six games there. “But the way it turned out, with us winning the silver medal and how good it was for hockey and how great that game was and how people who watched that game said it was one of the best games they’ve ever seen — things like the comeback, the way Canada won in Canada — it was tough to lose at the time, but to look back, we really made some great strides for USA Hockey.”
And if the NHL players participate next season at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, there’s little question Kane would be again be a crucial contributor for Team USA.
“Hopefully you can be on that team, too,” said Kane, who also scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 to help the Blackhawks win the 2010 title. “I feel U.S. hockey is growing, you can kind of see that from the players that are in the league now and how well we did at the last Olympics. I think you’ll probably see a lot of guys that were on that team will be some of the same players coming back [in 2014] because they’ve matured and gotten even better as players. I’m looking forward to it, it would be a great honor to do it again.”
As he continues to raise his level of play, that is pretty much assured.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.