Throughout the summer, we heard a ton about how Patrick Kane needed to elevate his game for the Blackhawks to be successful this season. Those criticisms came despite 73 points in 73 games last season.
Whether or not that talk was warranted, Kane clearly heard at least some of it, as evident by his fast start in 11 October contests for Chicago. Much was made of Kane’s move from the top line wing to second line center. But with Patrick Sharp missing all of training camp and the preseason, the Hawks were without a real option to center the second line.
The question was never if Kane has the offensive skill to succeed in the middle. He does. The concern for many was whether or not Kane could keep up with what the position requires both on the defensive end and in the faceoff circle.
Just as he has with his intensity and energy on the ice, Kane has once again quieted doubters with his play in the middle in the early-going. His skill with the puck is unrivaled, and he’s demonstrated strong play at both ends of the ice.
In 11 games this season, Kane has 11 points, including a pair of three-point contests. The most recent one of those came on Monday, against Nashville. Kane dominated throughout, putting two goals past Pekka Rinne, who was fantastic, and notching an assist on Nick Leddy‘s goal.
His line of Marian Hossa to his right and Patrick Sharp to his left was also brilliant. The three combined for eight points on the night and could see extended time together if that one game is indicative of what the trio could accomplish together.
But what is most intriguing about Patrick Kane’s move to center is how flawless it has actually been. Aside from being a wizard with the puck, Kane has been solid in his two-way play. He hasn’t been the defensive liability that many expected, and has been very good in his draws, sitting at an even 50 percent in 120 faceoffs this year.
Kane’s also demonstrated an ability to make his linemates better. Obviously, playing next to Marian Hossa makes things pretty easy, but even Dan Carcillo looked very good to Kane’s left, before his suspension. Kane’s playmaking ability and speed makes him a threat to the opposing team, while also opening up whoever is playing next to him and he has taken advantage, with seven assists on the year.
It’s probably safe to say that Kane’s transition from wing to center is no longer a temporary fix for a Blackhawks team in dire need of a second line center. Early on, Kane has proven to be everything the Blackhawks could want. On top of the fact that the move opens up his game even more, he’s also playing with an intensity level that we had been hoping to see from him all of last year. He means business.
As weird as it still may be to see Kane lining up for faceoffs, rather than to the right of Jonathan Toews, this is the best possible solution for the Hawks right now, and it’s translating to wins for the team. The only question heading into Thursday becomes whether it will be Sharp or Carcillo lining up to his left.