Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane skated wide as he crossed the blue line with the puck and then narrowed his angle and slowed his pace as he approached the right circle in a recent game against the San Jose Sharks.
As Kane drifted to the middle of the circle, he quickly came to a near complete stop. He had a few feet of open space in front of him and took a moment to survey the situation. With his stick on the ground and his shoulders square, he set himself up perfectly to pass or shoot.
Kane opted to shoot this time. The puck was blocked and bounced to teammate Brandon Pirri as he rushed to the net. Pirri had an open left side of the net and scored. That was how Kane produced a point in the seventh game of his current 11-game points streak.
Not that long ago, Kane might not have picked up such a point. His tendency previously was to pass first and playing Kane to do so was once the safe bet for opponents. He would sometimes make an opponent pay for cheating off him -- Kane still got his share of points -- but the scouting report was his first instinct was to create for others and opponents were better off for following it.
Kane worked hard to shred that scouting report. He partnered with skills analyst and development coach Darryl Belfry over the last three years to dismantle his shot, repair it piece by piece, study angles, alter his mindset to where he's equally thinking shooting and passing and develop into what Belfry describes as a dual-threat player.
"His initial identity as a player was a distributor," said the Canada-based Belfry, who has worked with Kane since the Blackhawks star was a kid. "That's his value in terms of his points production and consistent production in the NHL. Now in order to create a different path to production, you have to re-establish yourself. You have to become a more legit dual-threat."
Kane has taken steps toward getting there especially over the past two seasons. He put some of their work to use last season and scored 23 goals in 47 games, which was his highest goal-to-game ratio, and had a career-high 16.7 shooting percentage.
This season he's proven to have an even better understanding of that dual-threat ability and how and where to create scoring opportunities. He has 13 goals and 13 assists in 25 games and has a 16.9 shooting percentage.
"It's been like a three-year process to get him to this point," said Belfry, who also trains the New York Islanders' John Tavares. "Technically, he's getting better and has more balance with his shot. He can catch and shoot more effectively. The most important aspect is he can change angles. To beat a guy, he can change the angle on the guy.
"He's had that capability for a year and a half. Now that he's has had some success, he trusts it now and puts himself in better positions. I think we're just beginning to see his ability to score."
Belfry tracks all of Kane's points and jots down how and where he's produced them. During Kane's 11-game points streak, which matches his career-best, he has produced 9-of-15 points from his shot. Six points came by goals and three points were assists generated by rebounds off his shot. He also produced 11 of his points while inside the dots and took three or more shots on goal in seven of the games.
Kane has been executing what he and Belfry have been discussing. Aside from training Kane during the offseason, Belfry sends Kane video analysis and tips during the season.
"We talk extensively about establishing dual-threat positions and establishing himself as a shot threat," Belfry said. "He has clearly made an effort to do just that -- positioning himself with the puck inside the dots and used that position to establish his shot. The more he does that, the tougher he will be to stop as his passing from a dual-threat position will create open nets for his line mates once the league tries to adjust to his shot."
Kane credited his work with Belfry for his improved shot, but he also believes he has grown more confidence in his left wrist after having surgery on it after the 2010-11 season.
"I felt my shot has definitely gotten better the past few years, especially after the wrist surgery," Kane said recently. "I was coming off that, maybe that first year back I was a little hesitant to shoot or maybe not as confident in my shot. I had a couple summers to work that in and feel better about your shot. Maybe I'm shooting in better areas, too. Trying not to be so greedy and pick corners as much as get it on net. Hopefully it'll find a way to get in.
"I usually work with Darryl Belfry twice a week ever summer. We work on shooting techniques, ways to get myself chances, more time and space."
By developing into a dual-threat player, Kane is not only creating more scoring chances for himself, but also the opportunity to compile more assists and points. Opponents are having to play Kane more straight up, allowing his teammates more open space when he does opt to pass. That split second opponents were once taking away by cheating off Kane is no longer there.
When Belfry adds it all up, he's certain Kane is headed toward being a 40-goal scorer and 100-point producer. Kane recorded a career-high 88 points during the 2009-10 season and has never had more than 73 points in any other season. He averaged a career-high 1.17 points per game last season and had 55 points in 47 games.
"His pathway to 100 points is through his shot because people have to play him differently," Belfry said. "I believe last year he was on pace for 40 goals. This year he's on pace for 40. I don't think that's out of the question for him to score 40 goals."
Kane has gotten to a stage in his career where he wants more from this game.
"I think as time goes on you pretty much want to see improvements in your game and yourself getting better in all areas of the ice, especially offensively," Kane said. "Once you get to know the league and you've played in some situations, you feel like you can better yourself. Having two Cup runs, a deep playoff run, playing in the playoffs, playing in the Olympics, you feel you should be able to put up numbers in the regular season games. Try to use that help you, too."
Belfry believes this is just the start for Kane, too.
"It's an ongoing process," Belfry said. "From now through the end of his career, we'll always be monitoring his scoring chances and how he's generating chances. The next level involves how he gets in those positions and utilizing deceptions to create chances. Change from shot to pass and pass to shot instantaneously. That's the next stage."