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Chicago Blackhawks Grades: Patrick Kane Breaks Out

By Colin Likas
Apr 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane Has Season For The Ages

This one shouldn’t be too difficult to write up.

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane had a regular season for the ages, storming his way to the Art Ross Trophy and being among the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award (best player as voted on by the players) and Hart Trophy (league MVP). No American-born player had ever won the Art Ross, given to the player with the most points in the regular season, before Kane snatched it up with 106 points for an easy victory over Dallas’ Jamie Benn (by 17 points).

Kane achieved this with a string of 26 consecutive games featuring one or more points scored. With the run, which started Oct. 17 against Columbus and concluded Dec. 15 against Colorado, Kane set new Blackhawks and American-born records for most consecutive games with a point, as well as the longest run by an active NHLer and the longest run since Mats Sundin‘s 30 consecutive games in the 1992-93 season.

It’s pretty easy to see why Kane was critical to the Blackhawks’ success this season, as he and goaltender Corey Crawford essentially carried the team for large stretches.

chicago blackhawks
Apr 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) celebrates his third goal of the game against the Boston Bruins during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

2015-16 regular-season stats: 82 games, 46 goals, 60 assists, plus-17 rating, 30 penalty minutes, 287 shots on goal

2016 postseason stats: 7 games, 1 goal, 6 assists, minus-1 rating, 14 penalty minutes, 25 shots on goal

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Positives

Again, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Let’s start with the fact Kane played in all of the team’s 89 games this season. Only Trevor van Riemsdyk (really?) also managed that feat, though Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook were each one game away as well. But still, after coming off a major injury to his collarbone last year and following his quick return from that injury with an extended postseason run, no one would have blamed Kane for sitting out a few games. That’s a testament to his offseason conditioning, at the least.

Turns out the Blackhawks needed Kane around for all 89 games, and especially the 82 regular-season ones. Sure, things looked great during the team’s 12-game win streak, even if the Blackhawks only beat two playoff teams in the process (a not-yet-good Pittsburgh team twice and Nashville twice). But the underlying problems with defense and depth scoring were apparent. Kane made us forget about much of the latter.

Kane posted more than one point in a game 28 times during the regular season and two more times against the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs. There were only 17 contests in which Kane didn’t tally at least one point. That’s pretty insane. And as a result, Kane had to take on a lot more ice time, logging a career-high average of 20:25.

Kane also had an obviously positive impact on his linemates this season. He had no problem meshing with non-English-speaking Artemi Panarin, and the two seemed to have an almost telepathic connection.

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Likewise,

Artem Anisimov

was a strong fit for Kane, feeding him pucks and getting to the front of the net to finish some of Kane’s scoring chances. The line combined for 225 points in the regular season, and a lot of that had to do with Kane’s laser focus and often dominating play.

As for possession numbers, Kane carried play at a nearly 52 percent rate at even strength during the regular season, with that stat jumping to a whopping 58.31 Corsi-for across all situations. It reflects in Kane’s powerplay statistics, which show 17 goals and 20 assists on the man-advantage during the regular season. He also compiled nine game-winning goals in those 82 games.

Negatives

The only thing you can really go at here is the postseason. Sure, Kane had seven points, but his scoring touch sort of vanished in the early parts of the St. Louis series. He actually admitted after scoring his only goal in the seven games, an overtime winner in Game 5, that he had lost some confidence in his shot. Indeed, being outshot by Andrew Ladd and Marian Hossa after compiling 100 more shots than the next closest teammate in the regular season isn’t a great look.

Now some of this had to do with St. Louis playing Kane close, as the Blues obviously should have. But we’ve seen Kane break through tough defenses before, and you wouldn’t exactly classify the Blues blueline as “tough.” Yeah, the team hits a lot, but so did the Ducks last season, and Kane looked fine there (though he scored the same number of points, 7, in that series as in this one).

Next: Watching The Playoffs Without The Blackhawks

The playoffs were just weird for Kane, though you saw him turn things on after that overtime tally in Game 5. He just struggled to dent the twine against Brian Elliott and the Blues, and after being a proficient producer in the regular season, it was a bit of a letdown. But it’s also not like Kane was the reason the Blackhawks exited early this postseason — far from it.

Grade: A

As I said in the Crawford post, no one gets an A+ from me. Kane was one of two reasons the Blackhawks ever had a legitimate shot at defending their Stanley Cup. This was a team that was in flux from the start and never got out, but Kane was one of the constants. And he was an extremely successful constant at that, entertaining many hockey fans throughout the season. Kane is certainly in his prime now, so it’ll be interesting to see how he follows up this season.

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