Patrick Kane’s game: Clutch and fab
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com | @MorrisseyCST May 31, 2014 8:38PM
Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane, front, celebrates after scoring as St. Louis Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk skates in the background during the first period in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Thursday, April 17, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Too easy. Much too easy.
That’s what stands out about Patrick Kane’s game-winning goal Friday night. I know: Easy for me to say.
I don’t at all mean to minimize the skills involved. God gives stingily what He has given Kane. But there’s a deeper meaning in how the Blackhawks star was able to skate around Los Angeles Kings defenders late in a tight game in which most shots had been challenged like recount votes.
The message in the ease of locomotion is that opponents are scared to death of Kane, the way opponents were scared to death of Michael Jordan at all times, but especially with the game on the line.
This little guy, this waif of an athlete, has Jordan-like flair and a Jordan-like feel for the moment, and if hockey fans don’t like a basketball player being used for comparison purposes, well, there are worse things in life. And if Kane keeps doing what he has been doing the last seven years, he could have a Jordan-like grip on Chicago.
We’re certainly in the market for a transcendent superstar.
With less than four minutes left in Game 6 of the Western Conference final, Kane circled with the puck around three Kings offering minimal resistance and, from high in the slot, slipped a wrist shot past goalie Jonathan Quick.
The Kings had given Kane too much of what hockey people call “time and space,’’ likely because they were too worried about his enormous talent, as contradictory as that might sound. They gave him room because they didn’t want him to make them look bad with a slick move or pass. He does that to teams regularly.
It wasn’t surrender. It was dread, with a fear of embarrassment on the side. With Kane, the implied threat is as dangerous as the real threat. It’s why his defending-champion Hawks are one step away from another trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Game 7 is Sunday at the United Center. If there’s a big moment to be grabbed, you’d be wise to bet on Kane’s gloved hand doing the grabbing.
The Bulls’ Derrick Rose has been hurt for what feels like forever, and the memories of his furious drives to the basket are starting to fade around the edges. The Bears don’t have a superstar. The White Sox have a spectacular rookie in Jose Abreu, but there’s so much more we need to see from him.
Kane’s teammate, Jonathan Toews, is the unquestioned leader of the Hawks, and he’s on a fast track to the Hall of Fame. But Kane answers to the city’s need for style.
Chicago loved Jordan and Walter Payton because they did great things beautifully. They could raise the heart rate of even the most embedded couch potato. Sammy Sosa did that for a long time until suspicions set in that he might be getting special help, and I don’t mean tutoring.
Kane does the remarkable routinely.
Last season, his double-overtime game-winner in Game 5 of the conference final sent the Hawks to the Stanley Cup Final. He took a beautiful pass from Toews, one-timed a shot that beat Quick and slid across the ice on his knees in celebration, a man in his element.
Chicagoans can recite his heroics like they can recite family birthdays. His sneaky goal to win the 2010 Stanley Cup against Philadelphia. His short-handed goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation to tie Nashville earlier in those playoffs. His bad-angle backhander against Minnesota in the second round this year, the puck hitting all three bars of the net as if it were a xylophone. Et cetera.
Late Friday night, Toews captured the essence of Kane perfectly, and although the quote has made the rounds, it bears repeating:
“I looked at him, I think it was about a minute left, I think there was a stoppage of play and I almost started laughing. It’s amazing what he can do in these big games, when our season is on the line and nobody else seems to be able to do it the same way he does it.’’
That’s it, isn’t it? He drifts through shifts and games, and people start to grumble, “Where’s Kane?’’ But as the train approaches and the damsel needs untying from the tracks, here comes the aw-shucks kid fumbling with his white hat. You just have to laugh.
Chicago has MJ and Sweetness, Dick Butkus and Ernie Banks, all of them bigger than life. It might want to make room for the little hockey player.