Patrick Kane took the honor in stride.
When he was named the NHL's first star for the month of November, he did what most hockey players do when they get recognized for individual accomplishments.
He deflected the honor and credited his teammates. Kane said the honor was "pretty cool" and then was quick to say that his teammates are playing well and that's what is leading to a plethora of scoring opportunities.
Forget Kane's modesty. The 2013-14 season could turn out to be the best year of his career. He is coming off a remarkable showing in last year's successful Stanley Cup playoff run. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's playoff MVP when he scored nine goals and 10 assists as the Chicago Blackhawks disposed of the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins on the way to winning the championship.
Kane scored three key goals in the Stanley Cup Final against the Bruins. He gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead with his goal in the second period of the fourth game when he roofed a loose puck with his backhand over Tuukka Rask. It was the kind of quicksilver play that has become Kane's signature. He simply jumped on the puck and got rid of it in an instant over the stunned Bruins goalie. The Blackhawks would eventually win that game in overtime.
In a very closely contested Game 5, Kane scored both goals for the Blackhawks in a 2-1 victory. While his teammates could not get away from Boston's close-checking, Kane used his superior quickness to score twice.
That quickness and hand-eye coordination is what sets Kane apart from nearly every other NHL player. Kane's confidence was always high, but it seems to be at a new level after winning the Conn Smythe and contributing heavily to the team's second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Kane is playing this season as if he believes the team is capable of making it three in five years. He has scored 16 goals and 21 assists in the Blackhawks' first 32 games.
He leads teammate Jonathan Toews by five points in the team scoring race, and he is tied with Ryan Getzlaf for third place in league-wide scoring.
Kane scored 30 goals in 2009-10, and that's his career high. He is on track to soar past that mark, and a 40-plus-goal season is within reach.
If he stays on the same pace he's at right now, he'll score 94 points this year. That's six points better than his career-best 88-point season that he had in 2009-10.
Kane also is connecting on a career-high 16.3 percent of his shots. He knows that the closer he gets to the net, the more dangerous he is. Kane is not afraid to venture into the dirty areas of the offensive zone.
Kane is becoming one of the game's giants. Even though he appears small on the ice at 5'11" and 181 pounds, he is casting a huge shadow.
It seems to come down to his skill level, something that manifests itself in his ability to stickhandle, make quick moves and attack in the offensive zone.
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has recognized Kane's improvement and said Kane's ability to hold on to the puck is one of the reasons that he is able to separate himself from the competition.
‘‘He’s been playing great,’’ Quenneville told Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘In November, he was outstanding. It seems like he has the puck more than he has in the past. It seems like every time he hits the ice, he has the puck. That’s a good thing."
Kane seems to have turned a major corner in his career. While his talent has been obvious since the Blackhawks made him the first pick in the 2007 NHL draft, it seemed that there were as many stories about his off-the-ice activities as there were about his on-ice exploits.
That came to a head in the summer of 2012, and it seems that Kane has matured and is no longer interested in having his picture taken after a night of drinking at a college tavern.
That seems like a natural progression. Kane is no longer a precocious teenager who is playing off his substantial talent to gain privileges he doesn't need. Instead, he is a 25-year-old young man who is giving his all on an every-night basis.
Kane is not likely to exceed the all-around value that Toews gives the Blackhawks. But he is a dominant player who has tasted success and is hungry to get even more out of his ability.
There are no guarantees that the Blackhawks will defend their Stanley Cup title this year or even get back to the Final. However, it seems that Kane is doing his part and more to get back to the promised land, and that he is on track to enjoy the best season of his career.
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