Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane laments ‘unacceptable’ point production, even as scoring chances pile up

Kane’s particularly unlucky game Wednesday against the Predators multiplied his frustration with his stats, but he started to turn the corner Friday against the Blue Jackets.

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Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane looks on.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is frustrated by his lack of production.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Patrick Kane has recorded nine or more shots on goal in 13 games during his Blackhawks career.

In 11 of those games, he finished with at least one point — and in eight, multiple points. Before this week, the only time he’d been blanked despite being that active was in a January 2016 game against the Sabres, and the Hawks still won that night.

But then Wednesday happened.

Kane dominated the Predators, individually racking up 13 shot attempts, nine shots on goal and seven scoring chances. He was also on the ice for an additional 19 shot attempts, 12 shots on goal and nine scoring chances by his teammates. All told, the Hawks outshot Nashville 21-3 with Kane present.

Yet he didn’t score, didn’t record an assist and the Hawks lost, extending their skid to 16 defeats in 17 games at the time.

“There’s good things and bad things about it,” Kane said Friday morning. “It’s good that [I’m] getting those opportunities and creating. Playing with Max [Domi] and Tyler [Johnson], they played great, as well, so they helped me out a lot.

“It’s just tough when we’re playing well like that and we’re not producing. There’s certain different situations where you’re maybe either rushing shots or a couple bad breaks. I hit a crossbar on a backhand, and then on the two-on-one [rush where] Max gave me [the puck], I’ve got to make a better shot than that. I can nitpick each situation.”

Wednesday exemplified, in an exaggerated way, Kane’s overall season. He hasn’t played quite as well as usual, perhaps, but he has still played well enough. He just hasn’t been able to find the production to match.

In the Hawks’ slump-breaking win Friday against the Blue Jackets, however, Kane finally broke through for a three-point night, suggesting he might turn the corner after the NHL’s Christmas break.

He enters the break with just five goals and 20 assists in 32 games. That leads the Hawks but doesn’t crack the top 100 league-wide. The appallingly small goal total is largely due to his 4.2% shooting percentage, which pales in comparison to his 11.4% career average.

Kane insisted his shooting mechanics haven’t changed. He has, by all accounts, maintained a positive attitude on the bench. He doesn’t seem to be distracted by the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline, either. Bad luck might be the biggest factor.

Nonetheless, it’s “just the facts” that he’s not scoring enough, he said.

“The last 10 to 15 games, I’m finding my game a little bit more,” he added. “It’s just the production is low. That’s probably one of the main reasons the team has been in the situation we’re in. If I could find a way to start producing to a normal rate, that’s going to help the team take off.”

Hawks coach Luke Richardson has noticed Kane shouldering that burden of the team’s struggles — perhaps unfairly, considering the rest of the roster’s dire lack of talent is far more to blame.

“He’s hard on himself, in a way that we don’t see,” Richardson said. “He seems [to have] the same mannerism all the time. But I know he’s frustrated. He expects execution from himself, so we really don’t have to push him on that.”

The underlying data supports Kane’s perception of his improved performance. Comparing his per-60-minutes rates since Nov. 15 to before then, his shot attempts have increased from 14.0 to 21.2, his shots on goal have increased from 7.8 to 14.0 and his scoring chances have increased from 6.2 to 10.3.

But his points rate has conversely decreased from 2.4 to 2.2. That means his overall points-per-60 average sits at 2.3, on track to set a new career low by a mile. And that upsets him, understandably.

“Points is just unacceptable,” he said. “Goals, unacceptable. All that stuff.”

More nights like Friday could lift the weight quickly, though. Kane tallied another nine shot attempts, seven shots on goal and five scoring chances against Columbus and, this time, received the deserved payoff.

“Tonight, he had a little more perseverance,” Richardson said. “I don’t think he liked how that went last game. He played the same, but he got the results tonight.”

Linemate adjustment

It’s worth noting that Kane’s slow start was probably affected by his adjustment period to new first-line linemates.

Kane, Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat found quite the rhythm together in the second half of last season. Now, both those guys are gone — something that has regularly happened to Kane’s favorite linemates throughout his career. 

In their steads, Kane has spent most of his time this season with Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou, two forwards not the same as Strome and DeBrincat.

“[It requires] a different way to play,” Kane said. “That’s taking nothing away from the guys I was playing with, but it’s more on me to figure it out. 

“I think [Max has] been our best player, most consistent player, all year. I really enjoy playing with him. But it’s a little bit different. It took a little bit of time to figure it out. But we’re at the point now where you kind of understand the way you need to play to have success.”

How is it different? Firstly, Domi and Athanasiou are both left-handed like Kane, whereas DeBrincat’s right-handed shot set him up perfectly to blast one-timers off Kane passes. And secondly, Domi and Athanasiou are both perimeter players like Kane.

“Strome would drive the net, and you knew he was going to do that,” Kane said. “This year, we missed that for a while. Now it’s on everyone to do it because...when I was with Andreas and Max, [we were] three guys who want the puck on the outside. That’s where we struggled a little bit.”

Tyler Johnson has taken Athanasiou’s spot this week, however, and produced some encouraging early returns. As a right-handed shot with at least a few crease-crashing tendencies, Johnson probably will fit better there.

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