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Patrick Kane’s MVP-level production, effort is saving Blackhawks’ season

If the Blackhawks left it up to Patrick Kane, he would skate himself to exhaustion every night — assuming that’s possible.

At 30 years old, in his 12th season and with more than 1,000 games on his odometer, Kane is playing the most minutes
of his career and would take a few more shifts if coach Jeremy Colliton didn’t govern his usage.

“To ask him if he’s ready is probably not the best plan,” Colliton said. “Because he’s going to tell you he’s ready to go.”

Kane has done many amazing things this season, which is shaping up to be the best individual performance of his career, but his sheer stamina might be the most impressive part.

Patrick Kane is second in the NHL in goals and points. | Mark Humphrey/AP

OK, obviously that can’t be the most impressive part. Kane is second in the NHL with 32 goals and 78 points, after all, and has propelled the Hawks into the playoff chase with 15 goals and 19 assists in his last 15 games. The team is 8-4-3 in that stretch.

It’s an MVP-worthy season, especially if Kane lifts the Hawks from the basement to the postseason. Even if they don’t get there, though, this production merits consideration for the Hart Trophy, which he captured in 2016.

The Hawks looked dead in December but are on a season-high five-game winning streak and stand three points out of a wild-card berth heading into Thursday’s home game against the Canucks.

The Hawks wouldn’t be in this position without Kane wringing every drop of energy out of his body for them. He showed no inclination to take nights off when the season seemed lost, and is doing everything in his power to help them swing a major comeback.

“Every game’s a little bit different, but for the most part I feel pretty good this year,” Kane said. “Even when you play high minutes, sometimes that’s more on the power play. It’s always nice when you have the puck more. It seems like those minutes are a little bit easier.

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“But yeah, I always want to be out there and always try to help the team win.”

He is averaging 22:15 of ice time, second on the team only to the indefatigable Duncan Keith. Kane also ranks fifth among NHL forwards in minutes. The leaderboard for that category is dominated by players 25 and younger; Kane is one of three 30-somethings in the top 10.

His contemporaries Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby average 21:02 and 20:46, respectively.

Kane set a regular-season career high by going 28:50 in a loss to the Devils last month (his all-time ironman game was 37:49 in Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final). It was the most ice time by any forward this season.

Colliton isn’t necessarily trying to play Kane this much, but it’s hard to curtail his usage. He usually plays around a minute and a half on power plays and often stays out there the entire time hunting a goal.

And he rarely seems tired. Colliton’s main gauge is whether Kane looks fresh, and he always does. If his star player is zipping around the ice and never complains, how can he turn that down? Kane could be deep into a shift, but he’ll suddenly race up the ice if he sees a scoring chance.

“Anytime you feel there’s an opportunity, you’re probably gonna try to go a little bit,” Kane said.

His offseason emphasis on speed and agility over strength is paying off. He reported to training camp at 5-10, 172 pounds after typically weighing in the 180s. That was his plan for storming back from a relatively quiet 2017-18, and in 53 games he has surpassed the 27 goals and 76 points he put up in 82 last season.

No wonder Kane says his body doesn’t feel 30 years old. He’s skating like a kid again, and his resurgence might just save the Hawks’ season.