Patrick Kane makes American history by winning scoring title
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Few players have the grasp on hockey history — and their place in it — that Patrick Kane does. During his franchise-record 26-game point streak earlier in the year, Kane, off the top of his head, recounted how Wayne Gretzky kept alive his NHL-record 51-game streak with an empty-net goal in Chicago in Game No. 44.
And after becoming the first American to win the scoring title, Kane recalled how close Pat Lafontaine came to doing it for the Buffalo Sabres in 1992-93, when Kane was just 4.
“[Mario] Lemieux came back from injury and kind of stole it from him,” Kane said. “There’s been some great seasons by American-born players. I’m lucky and fortunate to be the first one to win it.”
Kane downplayed it throughout the season, but had mentioned in the past how important it was for him to make American history and win the Art Ross Trophy. He came up five points short in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, and injuries derailed him each of the past two seasons. In fact, Kane was leading the league in points last February when he broke his clavicle and missed the rest of the season.
Kane left no doubt this time around, playing 82 games for the first time since the 2011-12 season. And with career-highs of 46 goals (his previous best was 30) and 60 assists (his previous best was 58), Kane posted 106 points, the most for a Hawks player since Jeremy Roenick had 107 in 1993-94. Only Denis Savard, Bobby Hull and Roenick — all of whom played in much higher-scoring eras — have ever done better in a Hawks sweater. And Kane’s 17-point lead over second-place Jamie Benn (the reigning scoring champion) tied Sidney Crosby’s margin in 2013-14 for the biggest since 2000.
It was the season Kane always knew he had in him.
“Yeah, I’d like to think I was trending in this direction the past few years,” he said after posting two goals and an assist in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Columbus, a 5-4 overtime loss. “Who knows what it would have been last season and the year before if there were no injuries. But this year, I definitely took it to a different level.”
Kane was quick to defer credit to his linemates, and to the Hawks’ highly efficient power play. Artemi Panarin is the winger for whom Kane’s been waiting his whole career, a similarly creative thinker with seemingly limitless skill. And Artem Anisimov provided stability at center for the first time in years. In the previous three seasons, Kane had played with 15 forwards, including nine centers.
Meanwhile, Kane led the league this season with a whopping 37 power-play points.
Perhaps most remarkably, Kane only went without a point in back-to-back games four times all season.
“That’s the key thing, consistently producing like the way he’s been doing in this league,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Nowadays, with the salary cap and how competitive it is, I think it’s tougher to put up more points compared with just five or six years ago, when there were some teams in the l league that you kind of knew you were going to [beat] going into the game. Now you can’t think like that. There’s no easy games in the league anymore. That whole line there was pretty much carrying the whole team. They’re a huge part of why we’re in the playoffs this year. He’s been more than impressive to watch.”
Corey Crawford said Kane “has been the best player in the league,” and he’s likely to add the Hart Trophy as league MVP to the Ross. Of course, the individual trophy Kane most wants to win is a second Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, because that likely would mean a fourth Stanley Cup in seven seasons. The Hawks’ postseason begins in St. Louis, probably on Wednesday.
If history is any indication — he has more points against the Blues in his career (46 in 48 games) than any other team — Kane will play a big role.
“Pretty remarkable year he’s had,” Joel Quenneville said. “Can’t say enough positive things about how impressive his year’s been.”