There isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that forward Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is an integral part of the team, but is he the player who can bring the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City?
It was Kane after all who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of the 2010 Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. For the first time since 1961, the Blackhawks would parade through the streets of Chicago with the Holy Grail of hockey. He also netted another overtime beauty to put the Blackhawks into this year’s finals.
The Buffalo, New York native was the first overall pick of the Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He would make his professional debut later that fall and go on to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year after an impressive inaugural campaign. His first 30-goal season would be in 2009-10, and he has been a steady 20-plus goal scorer every year which is why the organization rewarded him with a five-year, $31.5 million deal in December of 2009.
However, the former member of the United States National Team Development Program has had his share of ups and downs. Entering the league at the tender age of 18 and embarking on immediate stardom could have easily ended badly for Kane who has made some questionable off ice choices including an arrest in the summer of 2009 for allegedly assaulting a cab driver. Professional sports is full of sad stories of athletes partying away the tremendous opportunity they have been given.
At 24, Kane appears to have matured a bit, keeping his name only on the sports pages for the most part. He has become the face of USA hockey, winning a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. During the lockout, Kane stayed sharp playing in Switzerland. He returned to America and started the shortened season on a tear just like the Blackhawks. In 47 games, he scored 23 goals and added 32 assists for 55 points.
As Kane has struggled in the last two playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, so have the Blackhawks. In the past two postseasons, the Blackhawks have been eliminated in the first round with Kane only scoring one goal in those outings. Yet, this year is another story; in 18 games this spring Kane has six goals and eight assists.
While he is a talented goal-scorer and play maker who has the ability to be a game-changer, he cannot carry the team on his back to victory. Any hockey analyst will tell you that the teams that win are the ones that have balanced scoring from all four lines. As the saying goes, there isn’t an I in team.
Hockey is a game of inches as Game 1’s grueling triple overtime victory for the Blackhawks can attest to. The Boston Bruins easily could have won several times in the first two overtime periods, but the hockey gods didn’t see it that way.
While a strong performance from Kane is essential, if the Blackhawks are to go the distance they will need everyone pitching in from the front lines to the pipes. One player cannot lead a team to the top. Just ask Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. He’s been trying that without any success in the Big Apple for a few seasons now.