The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t exactly thriving without their captain, but they are surviving. They’re obviously no Stanley Cup contender without Jonathan Toews, but they’ve played some pretty decent hockey in the nine games without him, going 5-4.
Part of the reason that the Hawks have avoided melting down without the most important player in their lineup is that a few players have stepped up on both ends of the ice, none bigger than Patrick Kane.
Kane is always recognized among the Hawks core, obviously, but isn’t often recognized for his leadership ability. That usually falls on the likes of Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa.
But with Toews going down with his concussion, Kane has said he needed to step it up, and he’s done just that without the captain.
While they haven’t managed to avoid the inconsistency that has plagued them for much of the year, they’ve played some very good games of late. And when they do, Kane is right in the middle of it. Though he’s not putting up points at an extreme rate, like most of us had hoped, he was the key part of recent wins over Toronto, Ottawa, and Detroit, as well as Friday’s win over the Rangers.
With no Toews, Kane has returned to center, where he started the year off, but on the second line. Playing next to Hossa has likely made life much easier for Kane as well.
He’s managed to show leadership and has elevated his game without Toews in the lineup. He’s as fast as ever and has controlled the puck as well as he has all year, while setting up his teammates for scoring chances.
Kane isn’t exactly having the year many expected him to have, after some big talk about his personal expectations in the offseason, with just 17 goals for the season. But he does still have 55 points on the season and has contributed in other ways, with the most recent ones coming in the leadership department, especially for a roster now filled with kids fresh out of Rockford.
Even more encouraging, Kane has returned to the middle and performed well. He started well in October, his first action at center, but faded in November as defenses began to wear him down. This time, we’re seeing a re-energized Kane. And it’s showing on the ice. Their second half inconsistency has slowed any expectations of more Cup glory, but a return of Toews and Kane remaining at this high level, even if it’s not showing up on the stat sheet, could be a very good sign as the Blackhawks head into April.