By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — With the puck bouncing away from Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks star reminded why he’s one of hockey’s best talents.
Kane accelerated toward the puck, swooping around Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson, then blasted a backhand shot past goaltender Cam Talbot, scoring an important third-period goal. It was one of those plays that requires the elite abilities of Kane.
“He’s been excellent,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Can’t say enough good things about him.”
Last week, an investigation into accusations of sexual assault involving Kane was dropped, a “relief” for the winger to have end. Chicago entered Sunday’s contest with Edmonton holding a record of 7-6-1, having dropped two ugly games in a row.
In the Blackhawks’ 4-2 win, Kane tied the NHL’s scoring lead with 23 points, joining the Stars’ Tyler Seguin atop the board. He did so with an impressive four-point performance, adding helpers on two Artemi Panarin tallies and the dagger goal from Artem Anisimov, in which he fooled Talbot with a brilliant stick-dangling effort.
Playing at an MVP level last season, Kane suffered a broken clavicle in February, which kept him out until the playoffs. The Hart Trophy was unattainable for Kane. At the time of the injury, he had 27 goals and 37 assists, which was tied for the league lead. He returned for the postseason and recorded 11 goals and 12 assists in helping the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
Now, the Blackhawks are attempting to mesh a revamped roster on the fly. Kane’s guiding a second line with newcomers Anisimov and Panarin, the rookie from Russia, and showing dominant form. The 23-point mark is a career-high through 15 games.
“I feel good,” Kane said. “I feel there’s certain aspects of the game you can always improve.”
It seems as if Kane is getting better and better — an impressive feat for the four-time NHL All-Star. He simply credits it to experience and work ethic.
Kane’s career-best mark for points was 88 in the championship season of 2009-10, in which he tallied 30 goals and 58 assists. Last year, he seemed on pace for a new career mark, plus was fighting for the league-best points total. Quenneville sees even better from his forward.
“He was arguably an MVP (last season),” Quenneville said. “And this year, he’s taken off to a different level. That’s how consistent he’s been, how big of a threat he has been, and how dangerous he is when he touches the puck.
Quenneville doesn’t often give high praise to individual performances, too, unless there’s a championship attached to it. But Kane deserves the reverence for his terrific play. With the Blackhawks reeling, Kane delivered a typical Kane performance. He was flying to the puck and fooling Oilers. Of course, he usually is fooling whichever opponent is on the ice.
Once again, Kane showed on Sunday that he’s the most electric player on the ice at any time — and perhaps the early leader for the Hart Trophy, too.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.