Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane aging like fine wine in insane season

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Patrick Kane is playing at an insane MVP level right now and it’s a joy to behold.

Very few predicted that the Chicago Blackhawks would be in the mix at the top of the Central Division but here we are, and a lot of the early success enjoyed by this team can be attributed to Patrick Kane who is carving out a season for the ages.

It didn’t look great for Kane or the Hawks entering the 2020-21 NHL season given that the front office had made it clear their plans to rebuild and execute a teardown, with goalie Corey Crawford being allowed to hit Free Agency and forward Brandon Saad being traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, stud forward Kirby Dach broke his wrist at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and was ruled out for the entire season, while Captain Jonathan Toews was placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve with an undisclosed medical issue.

With other players, including veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook also out to start the year, that left just two members of the core that won three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015 left standing, with forward Patrick Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith expected to carry the load for a young roster featuring plenty of flaws.

Well, as has been the case with the LA Kings and their core of veterans, being written off and playing with a group of young and hungry players out to prove a point has seemingly galvanized Kane and Keith, with the latter also enjoying a good year with seven points (0 G, 7 A) in 21 games while averaging 24:15 of total ice time.

Patrick Kane (88)
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /

Patrick Kane playing at insane MVP level for Chicago Blackhawks in golden year

But, as good as Keith has been, as surprisingly good as the goaltending has been and as much as other players have stepped up and chipped in with big contributions, there is no doubt that Patrick Kane is the reason why the Chicago Blackhawks are 11-6-4 on the year and currently sitting third in the Central Division a quarter of a way through the 2020-21 season.

Despite being without his fellow leader in Toews and having little around him, Kane has stepped up and led by example for his team, elevating his game to a whole different level and playing arguably some of the best hockey of his career.

He leads the Blackhawks in points with 31 (10 G, 21 A) in 21 games, and he’s tied for third in scoring in the entire National Hockey League with Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid for company. Not bad at all.

Kane is on pace to surpass the 84 points (33 G, 51 A) he recorded in 70 games in 2019-20, and his 13.5 percent shooting percentage this season shows just how deadly he has been for Chicago in the offensive zone, almost single-handedly firing them into contention in the Central.

Playing a key role in Alex DeBrincat enjoying a bounce-back year with nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points, Kane has been playing at the peak of his powers this year and he’s proving that, at even 32-years-old, he has no plans to slow down quite yet.

So crucial to his team’s success has Patrick Kane been that you can already consider him firmly in the Hart Trophy mix, given to the player deemed most valuable to his team. While McDavid, Draisaitl and Matthews will be the favorites, you can’t understate how important Kane has been to what the Blackhawks have done so far this season.

Quite frankly, you remove Kane from this roster too and the Hawks would have been where everyone predicted them to be and that is at the bottom of the Central Division. Instead, they are challenging for a Playoff spot and a lot of that is down to the elite play of their future Hall of Famer winger.

Kane is also working hard without the puck and he’s doing the little things that translate to team success, he’s putting pressure on the puck, he’s making things happen for his teammates and he’s buying into a team-first mentality that has proved to be the foundation upon which the Blackhawks are enjoying all of this early success.

What is perhaps more impressive is the fact that Kane is performing to a similar level to the one that saw him record 106 points (46 G, 60 A) in 2015-16 and take home a lot of hardware, although it is worth noting that he did have elite forward Artemi Panarin on his line that season.

While he doesn’t have the same high level of teammate this time around, that isn’t stopping Patrick Kane from lighting it up in the NHL in 2020-21 and his game-changing ability was on display yet again on Thursday, as he scored the game-winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in their 2-0 shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That goal, Kane’s 10th of the year and a beautiful snipe, was also pretty significant in that it puts him just one goal away from reaching 400 career regular-season goals, but also that the forward has now been on the ice for 20 of Chicago’s 31 five-on-five goals this season, producing a point on 16 of them. Pretty impressive and it again illustrates just how central he has been to his team’s success this year.

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Overall, the Chicago Blackhawks are punching above their weight so far this season and, whether that is sustainable long-term or not remains to be seen, but they have a superb chance of sneaking into the postseason as long as their talisman in Patrick Kane continues producing at the insane level he currently is which, given the current evidence, is more than likely and that could result in MVP honors for No. 88 who is aging like a mighty fine wine.