DETROIT -- He’s not sure himself what’s clicked in for him recently, but the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane is doing exactly what he said needed to be done in the absence of captain Jonathan Toews: he’s stepping up his game.
It started in Anaheim last weekend when he scored the first power-play goal for the Hawks in 39 attempts while adding two other shots on net. Then came his game against Toronto on Wednesday, where more than one account described him as “flying” around the ice. The result was a goal and an assist with six shots on net and a plus-2 rating.
Though he failed to get a point in it, his best game may have been Friday night in a 2-1 win over Ottawa. Again, Kane was flying and his line with Andrew Brunette and Marian Hossa was dominant. Kane had five shots on net and numerous magician-like passes which his teammates failed to bury. You can joke about those misses after a win, right?
“We were having fun with it during it too,” Kane laughed after practice in Detroit on Saturday. “We were on the bench there in the third shaking our heads, laughing that nothing went in for us. There will be games like that, but if you play like that every night you’re definitely going to get some results.”
They didn’t win the game in Anaheim but the two victories over Toronto and Ottawa had largely to do with No. 88.
“Give him credit,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville beamed. “He’s had two outstanding games. Puck possession. Speed off the attack. He’s back to center with a real opportunity to take charge here a little bit without Johnny around. Hopefully he continues to play that way.”
“Take charge” isn’t exactly how Kane has been described over the years. He’s a great talent but usually takes second fiddle to Toews or others in the leadership department.
“The effectiveness of what he did for our team game and for his game was amazing,” Quenneville said. “He’s showing leadership, in that game at home against Toronto. Last [Friday] night he took it to another level. Hopefully that can be the standard from here on out.”
In praising Kane, it also sounds like Quenneville is trying to challenge him. Simply put, without Toews around the Hawks have little chance of doing the things they want to long-term, but if Kane can be the superstar people have been waiting for, they might have a chance to survive.
“The biggest thing is we have the puck a lot,” Kane said. “We’re getting chances and creating momentum for the team.”
He’s even starting to sound like Toews. So where did this newfound energy and take-charge attitude come from? He says he feels the same but maybe he’s getting a jolt from the infusion of all the young players in the Hawks lineup. Five rookies have been a part of the last two wins.
“Real high-energy guys,” Kane said. “They bring a lot of enthusiasm. They’re fun to have around too… [Jimmy] Hayes is my boy for sure. Kind of hit it off with him. All of them are awesome guys. They’re fun to have around. For once I feel like a veteran with these guys around.”
So maybe that’s it. Kane -- the veteran -- feels the need to lead the way. Brunette and Hossa should feel the same. And with Kane in between them, they will get their chances.
“It’s fun playing the game with those two guys,” Kane said. “They have a lot of skill. Brunette is really a smart player. Hossa has been a blast to play with every time I’ve played with him. It’s a good line right now, hopefully we continue it and try to keep getting chances.”
It remains to be seen if this is a short jolt or something bigger. After all, Kane played center in the month of October but fizzled there in November during some tough road contests. His play in Ottawa was encouraging as it was a road test against a good team. But the Wings and Blues know his game as well as anyone and the sledding should get tougher.
“You don’t see those [Canadian] teams very often so you don’t know what to expect, try to take advantage of that,” Kane said. “But a couple weeks ago I was at center against the Red Wings, I feel like I was doing some of the same things. Try the same things tomorrow [Sunday] and against St. Louis [Tuesday].”
If he’s successful, then Toews might not have to rush himself back from his injury. Kane’s got this.
“I think he’s been a really dangerous player,” Quenneville said.
Recent opposition would undoubtedly agree.
Bolland to wear visor
Dave Bolland was wearing a visor at practice on Saturday and was sporting a nasty cut above his right eye -- which was also black.
“I had a few [stitches],” he said. “Just a little shaft to the eye. It happens.”
Bolland said Ottawa’s Jason Spezza was the culprit in Friday’s game and he will wear the visor for the time being.
“I’ll try it for a while,” he said. “See how it goes. When you get two or three around the eye it sort of tells you something -- to put a visor on.”
Newcomer Johnny Oduya is feeling better about his game after a rough debut on Wednesday, when he was on the ice for three goals against in his first period as a Hawk.
“Goal there in the first shift isn’t the start you want,” Oduya said. “It’s going to happen and it’s probably going to happen some other times too. As long as we played hard like we did [Friday] night we’re going to win more games than we’re going to lose.”
Teammate Duncan Keith said Oduya was “outstanding” against the Senators.
The Hawks practiced on Saturday with all line and defensive pairings the same as they were in Friday’s game against Ottawa.