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On big stage, Patrick Kane doesn’t miss his cue

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

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Updated: June 10, 2013 6:50PM



Patrick Kane’s playoff beard is . . . you know what? . . . not bad.

It’s thicker than you might expect on that still-boyish face of his, and it has a hint of red to it, an apparent tip of the hockey helmet to his Irish ancestors. It’s certainly a far cry from the dandelion fuzz he sported during his first NHL postseason in 2009, when he was all of 20.

Does that make him more mature? I don’t know. In the same way I can’t tell if someone is fully healed from a knee injury, I have no way of telling, short of 24-hour surveillance, if someone I don’t know well has matured. I’ll leave that to Deadspin.

What I do know is that Kane has impeccable timing and that he was born to be on stage. You need a goal to win the 2010 Stanley Cup? No problem. He’ll squeeze the puck into a space big enough to accommodate a garter snake. You need a goal in double overtime Saturday to send the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final? Against the best goalie in the league? Coming right up. Watch him whip a wrist shot past the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick. Listen to the bellow of a ship horn announcing Kane’s score at the United Center and wait for the do-do-do-do of the team’s unofficial goal song.

Now see Kane in the middle of a mob of giddy Hawks, exactly where he belongs. That last goal was his third of the night — of course it was — and the hat trick only added to his reputation as a big-game, big-moment player.

Only four days earlier, he had been the subject of much scrutiny for the way his scoring had dried up in the Western Conference finals. After a Game 3 loss to the Kings, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville came about as close as he can to calling out a player, saying he wanted to see ‘‘a little more’’ from Kane. Kane scored a goal in Game 4, then followed up with the huge performance in Game 5. That would probably be a decent definition of ‘‘a little more.’’

‘‘That was more than more,’’ Quenneville said.

‘‘I expected more from myself,’’ Kane said. ‘‘My teammates probably did, too.’’

Everybody did. That’s what happens when you’re an elite player. Much is asked of those who have been given much. I think that’s biblical. I know for sure that Game 5 was epic, one of the most overused words in sports these days.

But as I look back on Saturday, I wonder if Kane had simply been teasing us. Maybe he had rolled out a ball of yarn in the hopes we’d make a tangled mess of it and he could laugh. Even on Sunday, a day after his dramatic goal, it was still stunning to think about how good he had been in Game 5 and how silly we had been to question him. Part of our doubts came from the mood swings built into the postseason, but just as much stemmed from how easy it is to question a 24-year-old whom we’ve questioned a lot over his career.

Kane is a package deal. He is ultra-talented, and he’s going to muck up periodically, on and off the ice. You have to take all of him.

Because he’s inextricably linked with captain Jonathan Toews, his fellow Hawks pillar and the man who slid a perfect pass to him on the game-winner Saturday, you can’t help but compare and contrast. It’s like this: Kane is the United States, full of life and full of itself, and Toews is Canada, reserved and not given to many outward shows of emotion.

Nobody’s going to win a who’s-more-perfect contest with Toews. He has managed to keep his off-ice exploits, if there are any, out of the public eye. Kane can’t, whether it involves riding in a taxi or a limo or, shall we say, unwisely topping off his tank in Madison, Wis.

It’s Captain Serious vs. Sgt. Pepper.

All I know is that Kane will be in the middle of things, for better or worse, with the Stanley Cup Final beckoning. The Bruins surely will draw a red circle around his name for Game 1 on Wednesday. That’s nothing new. Opponents have tried to flatten him, but it’s like trying to catch a dragonfly barehanded.

Here comes the biggest stage there is, and here comes Patrick Kane skating and stickhandling up a storm. Boy, this could be fun.



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