Kane’s hot start puts 50-goal mark in reach
Let’s have some quick fun with numbers.
If the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane continues at his current pace, he will finish the season with a team-record 69 goals. It would be a glorious achievement, the Hawks probably would make the playoffs, and Kane likely would win his second Hart Trophy as league MVP.
Now let’s detour back to reality: Kane will not finish the season with 69 goals.
But with Kane tied for the NHL lead in goals after the first month of the season, it does seem possible he could become the first Hawk to hit the magical 50-goal mark since Jeremy Roenick scored 50 in 1992-93.
“Without question (Kane) has the best chance of any Hawk since I did it,” Roenick said.
That was meant as high praise, but since Roenick’s second 50goal season — after he scored 53 in 1991-92 — the Hawks haven’t exactly been inundated with players threatening to hit the mark. Only three Hawks have scored 40 goals since then: Kane with 46 during his 2015-16 MVP season; Tony Amonte, whose three 40goal seasons included a careerhigh 44 in 1998-99; and Roenick, who came close to a third straight 50-goal season in 1993-94 but fell four shy.
The only other Hawks to reach 50 are Bobby Hull, who did it five times between 1961 and ’72, and Al Secord with 54 in 1982-83.
Kane has been one of the NHL’s best players for a decade, but he isn’t a pure goal scorer. That’s a description reserved for powerful snipers such as Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Vladimir Tarasenko, who typically finish with more goals than assists.
Kane is a brilliant playmaker who never has had more goals than assists in his first 11 seasons. But that hasn’t been the case so far this season. Kane, who sat out Wednesday against the Canucks with an illness before returning Thursday against the Oilers, has 11 goals and seven assists in 13 games.
So how do you explain Kane’s elevated goal scoring? First, he’s shooting more than ever. Through Thursday, he led the league with 64 shots on goal and is on pace to finish with far more than his career-high 292 in 2016-17.
“He has a little bit more of a shoot-first mentality,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He has the puck more. He finds a way to get it, and he does some good things with it. … Guys are aware of where he is on the ice and know that’s a good option.
“Kaner has a little quickness that he has added to his game (that) seems to get him a little bit looser to get a shot away. If he keeps getting those looks or quantity of looks, I think that production is going to stay there.”
Kane is scoring on 17.2 percent of his shots, which would best his career high of 16.7 in 2012-13.
“When he starts thinking shoot, it’s dangerous,” Roenick said. “Not too many guys can shoot with the accuracy Patrick Kane can.”
Then there’s the fact the Hawks simply need him to score goals. The three players with whom he has played the most even-strength time — Nick Schmaltz, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov — have a combined three even-strength goals. Kane has 10.
“That’s what makes him so great,” Roenick said. “He understands that this team wins or loses by how he and Jonathan Toews play. I think a little bit more on Patrick because (he’s) a bigger point getter, bigger goal scorer.”
Kane wasn’t talking specifically about scoring more goals but agreed with a suggestion his play can reach another level this season.
“There’s still some more I can bring as far as controlling the play and having the puck more and creating plays,” he said. “All players, once they get going, they don’t want to be satisfied with where they’re at. They want to keep improving.”
Roenick played in an era when far more goals were scored leaguewide. There were 14 50goal scorers in 1992-93, the most ever. There have been only 15 50-goal seasons since 2005-06 and none since 2015-16.
“It wasn’t ‘if,’ it was ‘when’ I was going to score in the game,” Roenick said. “It just seemed like everything flowed; I had opportu- nity after opportunity. Goals just seemed to come easy, and when you’re in a groove and the puck’s going in for you, you make better decisions and you’re usually in better places. You get so confident when it gets rolling like that.
“You can see what has happened with Patrick. He’s getting three or four Grade A opportunities a game because he’s feeling it. And when you’re feeling it, it’s fun to play the game.”
Kane has a long way to go to reach 50.
But the way he has been playing, it should be fun to watch him try.
Patrick Kane would be only the fourth Blackhawk to score 50 goals in a season, joining Bobby Hull, Al Secord and Jeremy Roenick.