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Blackhawks notes: Patrick Kane’s season among franchise’s best

Patrick Kane gave away his stick after the final home game. | Matt Marton/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It will be covered up by the muck of another disappointing season for the Blackhawks, but Patrick Kane put together an incredible season.

Despite going quiet in the final stage of the playoff push, Kane’s 44 goals and 66 assists for a career-high 110 points was on par with his 2015-16 MVP season and was one of the best ever by a Hawks player.

He broke a three-week slump with a goal against the Blues and scored twice against the Stars in the final home game. He had an assist in the Hawks’ 3-2 loss to the Predators on Saturday.

“It’s no surprise,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He’s gonna find a way to come through and produce. When he gets the puck in those situations, he just finds a way. It’s unbelievable.”

None of the last eight Hart Trophy winners topped 109 points, and Kane’s mark is the team’s best in more than three decades. Dennis Savard, who had four seasons of 116-plus and put up a franchise-record 131 in 1987-88, is the only Hawk to outdo Kane’s 110.

His final totals don’t show what an odd, streaky season it was for Kane. He had 11 through the first 12 games of the season, then managed just two in his next 17.

He heated up again in mid-December, then went on a surge in January with the NHL’s longest point streak of the season: 17 goals and 26 assists in 20 games.

Kane was on pace to exceed 50 goals then, but hit a skid in March with one goal in 15 games. The fact that he averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time, third among NHL forwards, might have been a factor.

He got going again in time to reassert himself as the team’s top goal-scorer, outdoing Alex DeBrincat by two. DeBrincat beat Kane 28 to 27 for the lead last season.

Ward, Kunitz undecided

Two accomplished veterans will consider retirement this offseason, but neither has ruled out returning.

While goaltender Cam Ward and forward Chris Kunitz seem unlikely to be back with the Hawks in 2019-20, they could get opportunities elsewhere.

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“I want to sit back and reflect with my family and talk about where we’re going to be,” Kunitz said. “Three kids who are getting up there in age that expect a lot from me to be around, and sometimes it gets [difficult] for my wife being there by herself, so just trying not to be selfish about it.”

Kunitz is a four-time champion who has played more than 1,000 games, but at 39 was often a healthy scratch this season and had played just 500 minutes going into the game against the Predators.

Ward, 35, won a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoffs MVP as a rookie in 2006. This was his 14th season, and he’s reached the chapter of his career where he’s unlikely to be offered a starting job.

Despite the decrease in production, Ward and Kunitz made meaningful contributions to the Hawks this season.

“I’m sure both of them, and all of us, are probably thinking that this isn’t the season we wanted to have,” Kane said. “But I thought both of them throughout the year were great as far as being engaged, being good leaders, kind of showing these young guys how to prepare, practice and be true professionals.”