Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane back among NHL’s elite scorers, but hasn’t hit ceiling
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Patrick Kane has been tearing it up for a month, doing something spectacular nearly every night, and he’s on course for one of his best scoring seasons.
“It’s almost not even that impressive because you just kind of expect it from him,” Jonathan Toews said. “Regardless of what our team’s doing, he’s producing no matter what, and I think that’s the most impressive part.”
Through the highs and the very lows of this Blackhawks season, Kane has been worth watching. He’s reminding everyone on a nightly basis that he’s still one of the most dangerous skaters in the NHL, and there’s a refinement to his game at 30 that raises the thought of him reaching an even higher level.
It’s going to take heavy construction for the Hawks to get back to where they want to be, but Kane’s going to remain part of the blueprint. This season reiterates that he has at least a few more great years ahead of him and will be a valuable asset in the rebuild, even if it takes a little while.
His 24 goals and 34 assists put him sixth in the league in points, and he’s headed to his eighth All-Star Game in two weeks. His last month has been brilliant: 11 goals and 15 assists in 16 games. The surge puts him on pace to make a run at his career high of 46 goals, set in 2015-16.
Everyone loves watching Kane craft a viral-video goal like the one he nonchalantly flipped past Calgary’s David Rittich on Monday, but his passes are equally artistic. He had two assists in Wednesday’s overtime loss to Nashville that were as good as goals.
He set up right of the net in the first period and waited for three Predators to drift his way before whipping it to Alex DeBrincat for a one-timer on the left side. He also drew a double-team late in regulation, when the Hawks were fighting frantically to tie it, dropping the puck to Artem Anisimov at close range for a score.
“There’s always a play to be made with him,” Dylan Strome said after Thursday’s practice. “Sometimes you don’t even think you’re open — but he thinks you are. You don’t even know what he’s going to do next. He’s hard to read because he’s so good at what he does. You’ve gotta be ready for the puck all the time because it’s probably coming to your stick.”
Strome is new to this. He arrived from Arizona in a late-November trade and never had played with someone as inventive as Kane. Most guys haven’t.
When Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton put Strome on a line with Kane, he quickly saw what it required of him. The unpredictability that makes Kane such a headache to defend also makes it difficult to rise to his level. Strome has acclimated well, but he laughed when asked if there was ever a moment when Kane suddenly and unexpectedly put the puck at his feet.
“Yeah,” he said, rolling his eyes. “A couple times.”
Colliton is new to Kane, too, and maybe it’s good to get a fresh perspective after a decade of playing for Joel Quenneville. When Kane really started to catch fire last month, Colliton liked it but insisted there was room to grow.
Colliton wants to find new ways to maximize his talent, and Kane has been amenable to change. Neither considers the player to be a final product. There might be more to Kane’s game, and some of Colliton’s ideas — a faster overall pace, for one — seem like they’ll enhance what he already does.
“I don’t know what the ceiling is — that’s what’s exciting,” Colliton said. “What makes him great is he’s relentless in trying to get better. He’s not satisfied. He wants to find new ways to produce.”