For everything that has gone wrong for the Blackhawks this season — goalie Corey Crawford’s head injury, struggles among the veterans, young players battling inconsistency, a lack of mental toughness when things go sideways — there had been one constant: Patrick Kane was scoring.
Well, add him to the list.
Kane has one goal in his last 13 games, his worst stretch since the 2013-14 season. If he doesn’t score Saturday night against the Capitals, you’ll have to go all the way back to 2008-09 — his second season, when he had one goal in 21 games — to find a longer dry spell. And with the Hawks mired in an eight-game losing streak that has essentially eliminated them from playoff contention, Kane is feeling the burden.
“It obviously hurts when you’re not producing offensively and the team’s losing,” he said. “You feel like you could help out in certain situations. I felt like if I could have come up with something the past couple of games, maybe it could have been different.”
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It’s not as if Kane has been invisible. He has five assists in this goal-less stretch, and while he hasn’t recorded a point in the last five games, he was all over the ice in Thursday night’s loss to the Ducks. He had six shots on goal, was denied by John Gibson on a breakaway in the second period and took a sharp shot that was saved at the horn during a frantic final push. He also set up Jordan Oesterle with a beautiful pass for what could have been an easy chip-shot in front of an open net, only for Oesterle to send it over the net.
As is the case for the rest of his teammates, things just aren’t going Kane’s way. And even a former MVP with 306 career goals and 499 career assists can lose confidence. It happened during his lengthy sophomore slump, during the 2013 playoffs and during an 11-game goal-less streak in 2013-14.
“Sometimes when things aren’t going in, you’re maybe thinking of things in the back of your mind a little bit,” Kane said. “I think we all go through that through stretches of the season. You just try to stay as confident as possible. Overnight, it’s not like you just become a bad player, or a bad team. You’ve still got to have confidence in yourself, and feel like you’re a good player.”
It probably hasn’t helped that Kane has been cycling through various linemates as coach Joel Quenneville desperately searches for a lineup that can score. The Hawks have scored two or fewer goals in six straight games and 13 of their last 16 games since an eight-goal outburst in Ottawa on Jan. 9. In that span, Kane has had both Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov as a center, and Schmaltz, Anisimov, Brandon Saad, Ryan Hartman and Lance Bouma as a left wing.
“We’d probably be more consistent if there was production,” Quenne-ville said. “But Kaner’s always going to find a way to be productive and score goals and make plays.”
The hard truth is that there’s little to be gained from winning games at this point. The Hawks aren’t making the playoffs (they currently have a 0.7 percent chance, according to projections by hockey-reference.com), and they’d probably be better served by letting the losses mount and getting a better draft pick in June. They now have the seventh-worst record in the NHL and a 6.7 percent chance of getting the top pick and coveted defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
The Hawks, of course, aren’t thinking about any of that. They just want to know what it’s like to win again.
“It’s kind of like being in a goal slump,” captain Jonathan Toews said of the losing streak. “Sometimes you just need something to go in.”
It’s a feeling Kane is suddenly very familiar with.
“Just try to stay with it,” Kane said. “Every game, treat it as a clean slate and play to the best of your ability. Play with that confidence, too — and a little swagger.”
Follow me on Twitter@MarkLazerus.