Whenever a discussion rises among NHL fans about which player in the league is the most exciting, there are a couple of guys whose names are always mentioned. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is always cited, as is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pavel Datsyuk gets some love as well, but one guy who really deserves to be listed among the NHL’s elite is Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.
His goal on Friday night was further testament to this statement, as he wowed the crowd at the United Center with a top-shelf backhanded goal that left his teammates gushing with praise.
“That was a pretty play,” forward Ben Smith said. “It was a phenomenal backhand there just right over the shoulder. We needed it at that time, having just given up two quick goals.”
Marian Hossa, who has a penchant for dramatic goals himself, had a similar reaction to the Kane goal.
“Not many guys can shoot a puck on the backhand like that, and he’s one of them,” he said.
Kane is no stranger to goals that are not only a great showcase of his skills, but he also has a flair for scoring goals at the right time. His goal against the Philadelphia Flyers to clinch the Stanley Cup in 2010 showcased both his ability to maneuver around defenders and a lightning quick wrist shot that’s hard for goaltenders to center up. He also has scored some big goals in odd-man rush situations, as he did with Jonathan Toews feeding him the puck to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 playoffs.
The 25-year old winger’s skills have been on full display during this postseason and Friday's display earned him a big compliment from teammate Patrick Sharp.
"There's only a handful of guys that can make that play," Sharp said. "Credit to him for stepping up in a big moment in the game."
Out of the five games that the Blackhawks have won in the playoffs, Kane has scored the game-winning goal in two of them, with Toews scoring the other three. Both players have been critical in the clutch, and goaltender Corey Crawford has definitely taken notice.
“He’s a difference maker,” he said. “I mean, there’s so many games that come to mind where maybe we give up a lead like there or there’s a little bit of a down (time), and he scores a goal on an individual play like that and lifts our team back up.”
As Crawford alluded to, Kane’s goal came at the best possible time for the Blackhawks. Having just surrendered two quick goals, the Blackhawks were reeling under some intense pressure from the Wild, and with their offense struggling to get the puck, Kane did what he does best. He turned on the jets to get through the neutral zone, worked his way around Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin, and made his gorgeous shot to give the Hawks back the lead.
“I tried to cut to the middle, and it was one of those plays where I was about to drop it to (Sharp) but I saw both defensemen kind of go to him, so I just tried to get it on the backhand and made a good shot and it went in,” Kane said of his strategy as he scored the goal.
That, perhaps more so than any other skill, is what makes Kane so dangerous. His vision with the puck is superb, and although there’s been a ton of talk over the years about getting a second line center that can work with Kane (including on this blog), the fact is that Kane is the de facto center. He constantly carries the puck into the zone like a center would, and his ability to create shots off the rush or dish the puck off to his teammates makes him incredibly difficult to defend.
Having that kind of weapon completely changes the complexion of the Blackhawks’ offense, and Kane showed once again on Friday why he is one of the best players in the league.