I had someone else in mind for the Chicago Blackhawks’ MVP for this series, but then something happened. It took my mocking response to harsh articles, a goal in Game 4 and a hat trick in Game 5 to change my thinking. After last night’s rollercoaster double overtime game, I’m naming Patrick Kane the team’s most valuable player for their run in the Western Conference Final.
Going into the series, Kane had only two goals to his name and was soundly criticized for being “invisible” and not producing in spite of the assists he’d earned. He and Jonathan Toews were subjected to finger pointing by people saying that the Blackhawks would never go any further if they didn’t start scoring. But Kane’s worst critic was himself. He knew he had to be better and didn’t make excuses for it.
With that criticism in mind, Kane made sure he wasn’t invisible in Game 4, making seven shots on goal and scoring a tip-in goal that graced sports pages across the country. It boosted his confidence, and he took that into Game 5. He scored the second Blackhawks goal of the night on the heels of Duncan Keith’s opening goal. He broke the tie in the third period until the score was tied again. And in the second overtime, he scored the hat trick off a pass from Toews, just like old times. You couldn’t have written a better ending to the series.
In scoring that hat trick, Kane did two incredible things. He’s the first player to score three goals against Jonathan Quick since Jarome Iginla did so on November 21, 2009. He’s also the first player to record a hat trick to clinch a Stanley Cup Final berth since Wayne Gretzky did it against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 Campbell Conference Final. On top of those, his third goal was scored shortly after midnight on the East coast, three years to the day when he scored the winning goal in overtime to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
For a young man who’s five months away from his 25th birthday, Kane did more in one game than anyone could imagine. The best part is that this could only be the start to his postseason success. Now that the fire’s been lit, it’ll take a lot to put it out.