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Nine-game goal drought ‘frustrating’ for Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane has just eight goals through 32 games. (AP Photo)

ST. LOUIS — The angle was sharp and the odds were long, but this was Patrick Kane, after all. If anyone could score on a one-timer from just inside the right faceoff circle, it’s him. But instead of rearing back and firing off of Artemi Panarin’s cross-ice pass, Kane alertly one-timed a perfect pass to Artem Anisimov, standing on the doorstep for the easy redirect goal.

“I try to be ready for anything with him,” Anisimov said. “He can do unexpected stuff on the ice.”

That first-period power-play goal on Thursday night in Brooklyn was one of the prettiest goals of the Blackhawks season, and naturally, it involved Kane, the Hawks’ most gifted and most prolific offensive player. His line is still the most productive on the team by a wide margin, and he has a perfectly respectable six assists in eight December games.

But to Kane, this all feels like a big slump. He hasn’t scored a goal in nine games, and he currently is tied for 10th in the league in scoring (with Panarin and Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds) with 29 points in 32 games. He has just eight goals this year — eight fewer than Marian Hossa, six fewer than Anisimov, five fewer than Panarin, and the same amount as Richard Panik.

Kane is on pace for just 20 goals, and, well, that’s just not good enough.

“Need a few more passes from those guys,” Kane joked of Anisimov and Panarin. “No, it’s a little frustrating. You always want to be trying to score goals, especially when that’s what you’re counted on to do.”

By any reasonable measure, Kane is having another very productive season. But he raised the bar so high last season — with career highs of 46 goals, 60 assists, and 106 points — that “very productive’ no longer feels sufficient. Through 32 games last season, Kane had a staggering 19 goals and 27 assists, and had just wrapped up a 26-game point streak, the longest ever for a Hawks player or an American-born player. He went on to win the scoring title and the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.

And now that he knows he can be a 40-goal scorer and a 100-point producer, Kane expects to do it every year.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said “Once you do it, and that production’s not there, it definitely feels like something’s off a little bit. [But] you try not to worry yourself too much about numbers. That’s something I’ve learned in the past, as well. Just focus on the next game, don’t worry about what your numbers are or what they can potentially be. If you start thinking too far ahead, it might just work negatively in your mind.”

Kane’s dip in production has been offset by his linemates’ surges. Anisimov had 10 goals and six assists at this point last season, and now has 14 goals and 13 assists. Panarin had nine goals at this point last year, and now has 13. As Panarin’s pair of pretty power-play goals Thursday night showed, the trio has regained its chemistry since being reunited 12 games ago. But Kane’s still on the periphery, not in the middle of the action.

Kane is clearly drawing more attention from defenders this season, getting matched up against opponents’ top shutdown lines and top defensive pairings more often. It’s no coincidence that Kane’s drought mostly overlapped with Jonathan Toews’ nine-game absence with a back injury. Opposing coaches no longer had to pick their poison, and could load up against Kane. Toews’ return to the lineup this week should at least help, but his own scoring slump — the Hawks’ captain hasn’t scored since Nov. 6 — likely will keep the focus on Kane.

“Without Jonny this year, Kaner’s line is getting a little more attention,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think that’s part of it. But I still think they get enough good looks in games. Their production isn’t that far away. They’ve been doing the bulk of our scoring, too, so we’re not complaining.”

Nobody really is. Nobody’s terribly concerned that Kane has lost his scoring touch, and nobody believes the slump — a “slump” in which he’s still averaging nearly a point per game — will last much longer. But Kane is getting antsy.

He can take some solace in how productive his line has been. But he knows what his job is. And it’s not to be a decoy, or to defer. His job is to score goals.

“It’s nice when the line’s producing and you’re on the ice with them,” Kane said. “But you’d like to be a part of it, for sure.”


Twitter: @marklazerus