Lost in the excitement surrounding the Blackhawks’ upset of the Oilers was Patrick Kane’s uncharacteristically quiet series.
Kane, the Hawks’ leading scorer by a 24-point margin this regular season, was held to four points — and one goal — in the four games against Edmonton.
The Hawks were able to survive and advance nonetheless thanks to terrific play by Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik and an offensive eruption by their defensemen.
But Kane’s relative silence — it’s difficult to generalize it as a slump, considering how he also wasn’t mistake-prone or noticeably ineffective in possession — continues a strange postseason trend.
In the Hawks’ last three playoff series — including the 2016 first-round loss to the Blues and the 2017 first-round loss to the Predators — Kane has scored only one goal in each.
That’s three goals in 15 games. That’s also three goals out of 65 shots on goal, a 4.6% shooting percentage that pales in comparison to his 12.1% career average.
Some better luck and a return to the mean seem inevitable eventually for Kane. But the same could’ve been said entering the Oilers series, and it didn’t happen then. The idea is it finally will against the Golden Knights in the next round, starting Tuesday.
“He had his chances [against the Oilers],” coach Jeremy Colliton said Monday. “A few were blocked in good situations. I think he’s playing well.
“Do I believe he will produce more? Yeah, I do. He’s a guy that always comes through in the big moments. We were able to win the series with him not having huge numbers, but he was still a big part of us winning the series.”
The Oilers clearly focused on taking away Kane’s shooting space and lanes. They gave the Hawks’ defensemen too much extra room in exchange, but they did succeed against Kane.
He attempted 37 shots in all situations in the series, and a whopping 16 of those (43%) were blocked. Only 27% of Kane’s regular-season attempts, by comparison, were blocked.
Of his 21 unblocked attempts, 17 made it successfully on goal, an 81% accuracy rate exactly in line with his regular-season rate.
But of those 17 shots on goal, Oilers goalies Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith saved 16, good for a .941 save percentage against Kane (their save percentage against the rest of the Hawks, though, was a paltry .857). Opposing goalies had a save percentage of .880 against Kane in the regular season.
Kane said Monday that he hopes his fortunes will turn against Vegas.
“The important thing for me was I felt like I was starting to find my game a little bit as the series went on against Edmonton,” he said. “[I tried] to create chances for myself, my linemates, on the power play.
“At the same time, you’ve got to realize that you are in playoff hockey, and it’ll be a little bit tougher to score goals. It may be a tough series to score against a detailed, structured team like Vegas, so [I’ve] got to stay patient, as well.”
Indeed, the Knights also will probably key on Kane after seeing how effective the typically porous Oilers were. Then again, a superstar of Kane’s caliber can eventually break down even the tightest coverage if given enough opportunities.
“It’s always fun to play playoff hockey, and there’s nothing better than scoring in the playoffs and helping your team that way,” he said. “I’ll try to do more of that this series.”