Sensing his best player was losing a bit of steam, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave Patrick Kane a three-day break before Saturday night’s game against the Calgary Flames.
Kane, who still leads the NHL in scoring with 92 points (39 goals, 43 assists) — 10 more than runner-up Jamie Benn of the Stars — has one goal and three points in his last seven games. It’s the lowest output in any seven-game stretch this season (the previous low was five).
Kane’s overall game seems to have withered as well. He was among the league leaders in plus-minus at plus-25 on Jan. 21. Since then, Kane is a minus-9 in his last 25 games. He was a minus-3 in a 6-2 loss to the Stars on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Kane has not participated in team activities since then — including Friday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West before the Hawks traveled to Calgary for Saturday night’s game against the Flames.
“We gave him three days off,” Quenneville said. “He didn’t get the All-Star break [because he participated in the game] and we figured we’d give him some time.”
If it was possible, Quenneville might have given the entire second line a little break. The once red-hot line of Kane, center Artem Anisimov and left winger Artemi Panarin has cooled with Kane. Panarin has has no goals and two points in his last six games and has dropped out of the top 10 in the NHL in scoring to a tie for 14th place with 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists). Anisimov has one goal and five points in his last 18 games.
During the Hawks’ 12-game winning streak from Dec. 29-Jan. 19, Kane (nine goals, 12 assists) and Panarin (six goals, eight assists) combined for 35 points. No way they were going to maintain that pace, but their scoring has slowed even more in recent games. Kane and Panarin each has scored on one of his last 24 shots on goal. Before that, Kane was scoring on 16.2 percent of his shots; Panarin was at 16.6.
“It’s a long year,” Quenneville said. “As the season’s picked up, the attention [from opponents] has picked up as well. They went on a pretty amazing rate all year long. It’s like your power play’s not going to be great all year. Your top line is going to get neutralized in stretches — that’s probably where they’re at right now.”
Quenneville is hopeful that if the rest of the team improves, the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line will re-ignite.
“You’ve got to recapture that feeling and pace and think of playing the right way,” Quenneville said. “I think it adds to offense.”