PatrickKane 

Hawks Vie to be First Repeat Champs in Two Decades

 

It hasn’t been done since spring 1998, when the quintet of Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Darren McCarty won their second of four titles together. This current Blackhawks group, already having won the Holy Grail twice, have as good a shot as we’ve seen in 17 years to pull off a 24-month Cup reign. In fact, doing so would all but handChicagothe first cap era dynasty tagline with three championships over five years.

The defending champion, Blackhawks and their high-octane offense are again the top team in the NHL (on a ‘points per game’ basis) and lead the league in goals scored. In 13 home games at the Madison Madhouse,Chicagohas only lost once in regulation.

Patrick Kane remains a key cog in this potent Blackhawk core and seems to be one step closer to entering the prime of his career. Freshly turning the ripe old age of 25 this past week, the mullet-rocking dynamo has put together a double-digit point streak, chipping in 14 points over his past 10 games. With 25 points total in 24 games he’s contributing once again at over a point-per-game pace. He very well may be in line to top his personal best of 88 points this year. During the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Patrick was already well on his way to crushing his career high with a pro-rated 96 points, but simply ran out of games.

 

Patrick Kane’s Points Per Game rate over past 5 seasons

2009-10 = 1.07 PPG

2010-11 = 1.00 PPG

2011-12 = 0.80 PPG

2013 = 1.17 PPG

2013-14 = 1.04 PPG

 

This year, however, Kane has been attacking the net more than ever before, honing in on his goal scoring proficiency. He was already one of the league's most dazzling goal scorers, though he’s found the twine with less than superstar consistency. That being said, with a tight range of 21 to 30 goals scored per season, he’s managed to be remarkably consistent for a mere ‘star’ goal producer. However, he’s been noticeably shooting with a little more frequency and far more accuracy than ever before thus far. Heading into this campaign, number 88 has sent rubber flying on goal at a career average clip of 2.38 times per game. So far in 2013-14, he’s taken 3.13 shots per game.

Prior to this year, his elevated goal scoring exploits have seen him go from one goal every 8.81 attempts since his rookie year, to one goal every 6.25 attempts this season. He is currently on pace to obliterate his 30 goal benchmark set in 2009-10 with a superstar goal scorer tally of 41.

Believe it or not, but Kane has been more productive on even strength with the least quality linemates he’s had in years. With the Brandon brothers (Pirri & Saad) riding shotgun most often when Kane gets on the board five versus five, it shows Kane has needed to be the impetus more often.

 

Patrick Kane’s Most Productive Linemates in 2013-14

 

Total Points for Patrick Kane : 25

Str

On Ice Line Combination

Points

%Total
Points

EV

KANE,PATRICK - PIRRI,BRANDON - SAAD,BRANDON

5

20%

PP

KANE,PATRICK - SHARP,PATRICK - SHAW,ANDREW - TOEWS,JONATHAN

5

20%

EV

KANE,PATRICK - SAAD,BRANDON - SHAW,ANDREW

2

8%

PP

BICKELL,BRYAN - KANE,PATRICK - SHARP,PATRICK - TOEWS,JONATHAN

2

8%

 

Perhaps Quenneville’s decision to stack the top line of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp has:

  1. A)Allowed one super line to dominate
  2. B)Paved the way for Kane to spread his wings and be the dominant force on the second

These are two important factors as to why the Hawks lead the Central Division once again this season.

 

Marian Hossa’s Most Frequent Linemate Generator (by Frozen Pools)

 

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

40.27%

EV

81 HOSSA,MARIAN - 10 SHARP,PATRICK - 19 TOEWS,JONATHAN

 

The offensive output of “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews is in line to set new career marks in goals with 38. He remains a multi-category stud with an above career average faceoff winning percentage of 57.8%. His puck protection rate has improved immensely, having yet to cough up a giveaway all season. He’s also on pace to register his most assists (41, pro-rated) since he set up 43 goals in 2010-11.

The potential future hall of famer, Hossa as well as Sharp both project to record around 70 points apiece. As long as the four horsemen stay relatively healthy the Hawks will remain an unbridled force to be reckoned with. Come playoff time, there will be absolutely 100% faith in each other’s abilities. Their young core has been down this road and seen the fruits of their labor twice already.

Chicago is a modest 10th best in the NHL on the man advantage, therefore have done the majority of their damage at even strength.

The defensive units have been dependable as always, with Olympians Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the charge. They are on pace to record an unheard of 111 points from the blue line combined, to go along with a plus-8 and plus-10 rating. To put this into perspective, the elite pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, in their Nashville Predators heyday, never cracked 100 cumulatively. Even Lidstrom and Kronwall’s best season together fell just short of the success Keith and Seabrook are locked into right now.

The stellar defensive efforts in front of the crease have allowed Corey Crawford’s job to become that much easier. He’s successfully been able to hide the fact that his numbers have fallen off dramatically from last season by doing just enough to hold on and get the ‘W’ most nights. His 1.94 GAA from 2013 has ballooned up to a mediocre 2.54 while his Save Percentage of .926% has dropped hard to a .909% mark. However, not unlike Chris Osgood having plenty of glory in MoTown over the years due to an incredible team in front of him, Crawford has jumped on for the ride in theWindyCity. He has the opportunity to be less than solid most nights and still be successful.

After their first championship, GM Stan Bowman was hit hard with the cap crunch, particularly in being dealt the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess left by Dale Tallon. The latter famously suffocated the cap space remaining by tendering qualifying offers late to several players. Such names as Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, etc. were non-tendered and became restricted free agents a year earlier and the Blackhawks were forced to pay up unnecessarily. This ultimately led to Versteeg being dealt to Toronto directly after winning the Cup. Other players such as Antti Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien were also reluctantly parted with.

However,Chicagohas been able to bring back one of their own in Versteeg, after acquiring him fromFloridathis month. He’s coming off an extended offseason where he was recovering from injury, so he’s understandably been slow out of the gates thus far. ButChicagoknows the forward's potential well and were able to return him to the squad as a depth piece. In only five games since returning toChicago, Kris has nearly matched his point total achieved in almost quadruple the games skated inFlorida.

With strong leaders in the room and the goals coming from everywhere, there’s a lot of character (and rings) in the dressing room now.

~~~ Follow Anthony Lancione on Twitter @ANTHISDAMAN ~~~

 

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