The Chicago Blackhawks were able to stop their losing streak at just two games on Friday night when they beat the Winnipeg Jets, and one of the big reasons why was the play of forward Patrick Kane.
Kane’s season has been an excellent one so far, as he is currently tied for the league lead in points with 58 this season and is on pace to set career highs in both goals and assists.
He also has only two penalty minutes so far on the year, making him the odds-on favorite to win the Lady Byng Trophy as the player who best combines sportsmanship and quality play.
Despite the potential honor of winning that award, Kane is establishing himself as a prime-time candidate for the Hart Trophy, given to the league’s MVP. He has plenty of stiff competition to face down, including his own teammate Jonathan Toews, but his numbers certainly speak for themselves.
So far in 52 games played, Kane has 26 goals and 32 assists for the Blackhawks. He is ranked behind Alex Ovechkin in the goal scoring category, and players like Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, and Jakub Voracek are all ahead of him in the assist category as well. Despite his standing in that group, there are a couple of things to keep in mind as the season wears on.
First and foremost, Kane picks up a much higher percentage of his assists as the primary helper on his team’s goals.
Out of the 32 assists Kane has, 22 of them have been the primary one, which is a nearly 63% success rate. Compare that to players like Crosby (20 out of his 39 assists have been primary helpers) and Backstrom (19-for-38), and it can be argued that Kane played a bigger role in the goals he’s assisted on than either of those two candidates.
Aside from the assist totals, Kane’s ability to flourish no matter what line he’s on has been impressive throughout the season. He’s largely played with Brad Richards, but despite having a rotating cast of linemates like Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp, and Kris Versteeg, Kane has maintained a relatively consistent scoring punch throughout the season, and his numbers are a big part of the reason why the Hawks are doing so well as an offense.
There are other underrated elements to Kane’s candidacy that have to be considered (his excellent power play numbers, his ever-improving defensive approach to the game), but the one other big factor that comes to mind when discussing Kane’s performance is his ability to come through in the clutch.
He has 11 goals and nine assists in 27 games against current playoff teams this season, and when you consider how well he generally plays in the postseason, those numbers can be expected to continue rising.
When push comes to shove and voters submit their ballots for the Hart, there is a possibility that Kane will lose votes based on the fact that he plays on the same team as Toews.
In reality though, several other candidates for the award could be hurt on similar terms, with Crosby’s association with Evgeni Malkin, Backstrom’s with Ovechkin, and Voracek’s with Claude Giroux serving as good examples.
If that’s the case and all players are dinged a bit for their teammates, then Kane has as good a shot as any of winning the MVP award.