Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, enduring relatively slow start, searches for more puck touches
Kane snapped a three-game point drought with two assists Saturday. But he’s more worried about his possession time than his production.
Back in autumn 2014, Patrick Kane struggled — by his standards — early in the season. He had only 10 points in his first 16 games, a statistic he still remembers precisely.
So getting 10 points in his first 13 games to start the 2022-23 season didn’t worry Kane too much. Nor did entering the weekend with no points in his last three games. He joked Saturday morning that “hopefully that means I don’t go another three without a point.”
He promptly extinguished any possibility that quip would jinx him. Kane had two assists — and nearly a third point when he hit the post on a 200-foot prayer toward an empty net — in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory Saturday night against the Ducks.
But the 33-year-old wing is a bit more worried about — or at least analyzing more closely — his general play to start the season.
The Hawks’ possession numbers are poor across the board, and Kane has never been a possession monster even in his best seasons, but the Hawks’ scoring-chance ratio (74 chances for, 114 against) and even their goal ratio (seven for, seven against) during Kane’s five-on-five ice time certainly could be better.
“It’s not really about points or anything like that,” Kane said. “It’s about how to get the puck, get puck touches, how to get it in space so I can do my thing. . . . It’s just more about puck possession: getting touches, hanging on to it. It seems like a lot of the time we’re out there, we’re chasing it, playing in the D-zone.”
So how do you fix that?
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself too far ahead of the play. So [I could] come back a little bit more, demand it. I might have to take it up the ice a little bit more. There are things you can do. But [I’ll] just try to demand the puck as much as possible.”
Coach Luke Richardson moved Philipp Kurashev into Andreas Athanasiou’s former spot on Kane’s opposite wing — on the other side of center Max Domi — during the third period Thursday against the Kings and kept that arrangement Saturday.
Kurashev brought success to every line he had played on this season and offers more well-rounded skills than Athanasiou, especially defensively. It makes sense that he could help Kane end up with the puck more often.
“They both have speed, but [Kurashev] is a bit more of a playmaker, whereas Athanasiou is more of, like, a jet-speed guy,” Richardson said. “Kurashev is more of a puck-handler on the cycle in the O-zone, which suits the way Patrick plays.”
Added Kurashev: “Maybe there will be some differences, but you get used to it fast, especially [since] I’ve been playing with so many different lines the last couple of years. I just try to play my game.”
The switch didn’t immediately make much of a noticeable difference, however. Richardson hinted after the game Saturday that he might scramble the line combinations again Monday at home against the Hurricanes, explaining his lineup decisions in California were partially because he “wanted to have a look at people in different positions.”
More changes wouldn’t be jarring for Kane, who has adjusted to hundreds of different linemates over the years and said he believes the onus rests more on him and Domi to get themselves going.
And based on Kane’s history, his multi-point outing Saturday could be the start of a hot run. In 2014, for example, after starting with the aforementioned 10 points in 16 games, he racked up 16 points in his next 10.
“There are some positives in there,” he said. “If I can get going and turn it on and get to my normal, usual production, this team can take off.”