Nobody is asking "Where's Patrick?" any longer.
Patrick Kane went from missing in action to the hottest player on the ice in about the time that it takes to snap a puck sitting on the goal line into the back of the net.
That's just what happened to the Blackhawks' most dangerous sharpshooter. Bryan Bickell had deflected a puck toward the goal late in the second period of Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Kane saw the puck and whacked it across the goal line,
That goal tied the score at 2-2, and the Blackhawks would go on to beat the Kings when Marian Hossa scored a goal in the third period.
A burden was lifted from Kane when he scored that goal. Kane had not scored a goal in his previous seven games. Getting back on the scoresheet gave Kane the boost he needed.
He was even more dangerous in Game 5, scoring a hat trick in the decisive game of the series. The last goal came as he finished off a two-on-one with Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks captain who had also struggled from an offensive perspective for the majority of the playoffs.
Instead of skating around in a haze, Kane was now soaring because his team was going back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four seasons.
Kane's goal total jumped from two to six in the space of two games, and he is tied with Patrick Sharp for the team lead in points with 14.
But it's not about what he's done in the last three series. It's what he has a chance to do in the next round.
Head coach Claude Julien's team can easily make that claim after its performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Bruins shut down the explosive Pens, holding them to two goals in four games.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang were all held off the scoresheet. Big, fat donuts for all of them.
So why is Kane capable of not only scoring against the Bruins, but doing it consistently? Because he's got the kind of skills that will challenge the Bruins' best defensemen.
The 6'9", 255-pound Zdeno Chara could easily squash Kane if he caught the quicksilver Blackhawks forward near the boards. So could defense partner Dennis Seidenberg.
The 5'11", 181-pound Kane is not going to challenge Chara, Seidenberg or any of the other Bruins defensemen to a weightlifting contest. Instead, he is going to use his quickness, balance, patience and skill in an attempt to frustrate them.
On his first goal in Game 5, Kane skittered through the offensive zone, picked up a loose puck in front of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, danced with it and dangled until he was just out of range of any of Los Angeles' defenders. As Kings defenseman Drew Doughty fell to the ice, Kane stopped, turned and roofed the puck.
That's a move that Kane has made regularly throughout his career. Bickell, one of the Blackhawks' most surprising offensive forces in the postseason (eight goals, five assists), said it's obvious that Kane's confidence has returned.
"To get that monkey off the back and get that confidence level, it goes a long way in any sport," Bickell told Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune.
Kane has returned to top form just in time. Head coach Joel Quenneville knows that his most talented offensive player is not going to be an impact player in the Stanley Cup Final if he is floating and playing indecisive hockey.
But he can be a game changer because of his quickness, vision, patience and hands. Apparently, all of those tools are working in sync again.
Just when the Blackhawks needed them most.
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