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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lay off Kane

Posted By on 01.21.12 at 03:06 PM

Earlier this week, some blustery old hockey goat on the newly rechristened NBC Sports Network was talking about how Patrick Kane simply had to score goals for the Blackhawks to compete for the Stanley Cup this season.

That refrain was quickly picked up by locals who can't think for themselves: "Kaner the Entertainer couldn't be plainer these days." True, Kane did go through a recent funk not unlike that of defenseman Nick Leddy. He seemed distracted and proved prone to errors like turning the puck over in the Hawks' zone, leading his plus-minus rating to drop to single digits.

Yet to attack Kane for not scoring is to ignore the changes he's made in his game. Starting the season at center, Kane clearly became more selfless and more focused on passing and setting up his teammates, as on the already famous no-look spin-o-rama to Marian Hossa. I can't count the "mattress passes" he's made to set up perfect shots, most splendidly on this Brent Seabrook slap shot.

Kane set up Jonathan Toews for the first goal of the game Friday with a lovely cross-ice pass, serving as the middleman in a play that laced the defense and ran the length of the ice. He followed that with a score of his own in the second period (just stick around on the highlights) to put the Hawks up 3-0 on the way to a 3-1 win, with the Hawks playing a solid all-around game that forced backup goalie Ray Emery to make a mere 15 saves in claiming the win. Oh, the goal and assist put Kane's plus-minus rating back in double digits as well. So don't insist Kane has to score himself. His more rounded game will pay dividends come playoff time.

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