NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Predators coach Peter Laviolette tried to answer the question seriously and thoughtfully. He said there were some things you can do to slow Patrick Kane down in the offensive zone, some tendencies he has in the neutral zone. But he quickly dropped the facade and admitted the obvious truth.
“There’s not a lot you can do,” Laviolette said. “It’s not like you can just have somebody go stand next to him and shadow him, mirror him. That doesn’t work.”
Nothing seems to work against Kane these days. Or against Corey Crawford. Or against the Blackhawks in general. The Hawks set a franchise record with their 12th straight victory on Tuesday night, a 4-1 win over the plummeting Predators, breaking the mark set in the final 11 games of their record 21-0-3 start to the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
In the process, Kane tied his career-high with his 30th goal (adding an assist to give him a league-high 71 points through 49 games), and Crawford set a personal best with his ninth straight victory, making 16 of his 38 saves in the third period alone.
Ho-hum. Another one.
“Ninety years,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said, pointing out how long the Hawks have been around without ever posting 12 straight wins. “We’re happy it took this long to get 12 in a row and proud of it. It’s a great achievement.”
Most encouraging, it was the Hawks’ sixth straight road victory. Playing away from the United Center had been the team’s bugaboo in the first couple of months from the season, their road slate dotted with half-hearted efforts and inconsistent play. But suddenly the Hawks are a four-line team again, and at just the right time. The Hawks are in the midst of a stretch of nine road games in an 11-game span. Next week’s All-Star break splits the annual “ice show trip” in two.
“It’s a tough stretch, it’s a lot of hockey,” Duncan Keith said. “Maybe that’s a good thing. We’re just playing, and there’s no practicing.”
At the end of a lackluster first period, the Hawks got the boost they needed from the usual suspects — Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Kane — in the final minute. Panarin took a pass from Kane and moved toward the net, drawing the attention of a whopping four Predators. Meanwhile, Anisimov slid back behind the crowd, taking a slick pass from Panarin and beating Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead.
The second period was much livelier, with three goals scored in an 85-second span. First, Richard Panik scored his second goal in as many games, ripping a shot from the right circle past Rinne. Twenty-five seconds later, Ryan Ellis beat Crawford on a shot from just inside the blue line.
And a minute after that, Panarin sprung Kane for a breakaway and his 30th goal of the season, tying the career-high he set in 2009-10. Panarin anticipated Kane’s burst of speed before Kane even turned on the jets in a perfect example of the chemistry the two have built up in their first season together, and why Laviolette said there’s basically no way to gameplan against them.
“The way they play, it’s an unpredictable game,” Keith said. “It’s not something you figure out. … They’re shifty, they make plays, they hold on to pucks. They’re tough to play against.”
Kane leads the NHL in goals, assists and points. Panarin leads all rookies in goals, assists and points. With the goal, Kane passed Pit Martin for seventh on the all-time franchise scoring list, with 628 points (in 625 games). Just one more milestone in a game — and a month — filled with them.
“Getting the franchise record for wins in a row is pretty special, and something we can all be proud about,” Kane said. “It’s fun to win 12 in a row.”