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TELANDER: An ill-timed vanishing act for Patrick Kane

Updated: July 7, 2013 1:08PM



LOS ANGELES — Patrick Kane wants you to know he didn’t suddenly become a “bad player.’’

That’s what he said after practice Wednesday at the Staples Center.

“Everyone is a little frustrated with the way I’m playing,’’ he stated. “But it’s not like all of a sudden I’m a bad player. It just doesn’t happen like that.”

And he’s correct. It doesn’t.

He didn’t just forget how to play hockey and start stinking up this third round of the playoffs versus the Los Angeles Kings.

But something is wrong with his game. And it’s been getting worse as the playoffs have progressed.

The superstar scorer has 10 points on two goals and eight assists in the 15 postseason games, which is OK, but no better, points-wise, than teammate and defenseman Duncan Keith. Yes, Keith will be taking a brief vacation for high-sticking the Kings’ Jeff Carter to the tune of 21 stitches, but that doesn’t change Kane’s ineptitude.

Kane got five assists in the first three games of the playoffs against the weak Wild, who were playing with backup goaltenders. Since then he has just five points total in 12 games, with a single assist against the Kings. We can dig deeper and note that his only two goals came in losses against the Red Wings; he hasn’t scored in a win.

Remember Kaner the Magnificent, back in like, 2010? There he was, the little gnat, sticking in the Cup-winning goal in overtime against the Flyers. Cut to the happy parade float, with Kane atop, beer-soaked, Cup over head, saluting a million cheering Chicagoans.

That kid didn’t just burst into flames and vanish.

He had a terrific season this year — a lockout-shortened season, remember — with 55 points in just 47 games. His rating on the ice was plus-11, better than in any full season except in the 2010 Stanley Cup year when he had a plus-16. And he scored the first goal of 2013—against these very Kings, in a 5-2 Blackhawks’ victory.

“I’m still a good player in this league,’’ he said. “I’ve just to go out and do it.’’

Yes, he does. Because this is not how a highly paid, incredibly skilled offensive star should be playing. Kane is maybe the greatest ice-dancer and puck-juggler in the league, but the magic means nothing when the bad guys are knocking your hat off and tipping over your Three-Card Monte table.

“It’s much more difficult in the playoffs if you’re an offensive minded player,’’ said Darren Pang, the former Blackhawks goalie now an NHL TV analyst for the St. Louis Blues and the NBC. “You’re not ­going to get a wrist shot from the top of the circle. If things aren’t working, you have to be able to do something you haven’t done.’’

For Kane?

“Go to the net,’’ Pang said.

And that isn’t easy. Not against these huge fast men playing for the Kings. The Panger, almost 50, knows about size disadvantage. He played at 5-5, 155.

By today’s huge standards, Kane is a Tinker Bell of approximate ­disadvantage as Pang was, going 5-10, 175. Some books may say 5-11, 181. Throw those away, please, fans.

Kane is not intimidated, but he might be rightly fearful. Pang was only scared of the big guys when he came out way out of net. Kane has had to make his living as the mosquito that buzzes between the reaching palms and swatting newspapers.

But that gets harder as the ­competition gets better.

“This is why there’s only four goalies left,’’ Pang said.

Nor does Kane feel his near-invisibility has been caused by fatigue, by the extra games he played in Europe during the lockout, or from anything but his odd failings.

“I feel great,’’ he said of his conditioning. “It’s not an excuse. I’m not getting tight on the ice. I’m fine.’’

But he’s not. The grind-it-out of the Kings style of play has made him seem like a little boy observer, dodging, darting, accomplishing nothing.

“I’ve always been not the biggest guy,’’ he said quaintly. “I’ve used ways to help myself create space, whether it’s going to the puck or using linemates to my advantage or just trying to get through seams quick.’’

Coach Joel Quennville was measured in his assessment of Kane’s play: “ I just think when he has the puck, not too many players in the league can do what he can do.’’

This also is true. But if he can’t get the puck, and he can’t get his mojo rolling when he does have it, it’s not good. Scorers and elite passers can’t disappear ion the biggest games, against goalies like the spring-trap-loaded Jonathan Quick. (Is that a perfect name, or what?)

So what we have is a baby-faced 24-year-old with a mullet and fuzzy playoff beard looking for answers.

“I watch him. I feel for him. He’s so skilled,’’ Pang said. “But right now it’s meat-and-potatoes time.’’

And the Kaner’s looking like sauce.



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