Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane has it all — but wants more
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter September 17, 2013 10:31PM
Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks
Updated: September 17, 2013 11:40PM
The stall to Patrick Kane’s left in the Blackhawks’ dressing room at the United Center belongs — for now, at least — to Teuvo Teravainen, a teenager with dazzling offensive skills and limitless potential, a ballyhooed player with the hockey world at his feet and heavy expectations on his shoulders.
Kane, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, knows a little something about that.
‘‘It’s almost like you have a little project when you’re sitting next to this guy right here,’’ Kane said Tuesday morning, hours before the Hawks’ 2-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings in the preseason opener. ‘‘You want to teach him a few things, talk to him, tell him about the game. It’ll be fun to play with him.’’
That sense of responsibility and leadership is still relatively new for Kane, still practically a kid himself at 24. He always has had otherworldly offensive gifts — the jaw-dropping video of him stickhandling through a maze of pucks had players around the league calling and texting him to see if it was real and is fast approaching 2 million views on YouTube in less than a week. But last year he seemed to enter a new phase of his career. A humbled and matured Kane became a leader in the locker room, a model citizen off the ice, and a more well-rounded, defensively responsible player on it.
The impact was obvious: his best season (55 points in just 47 games) and the Conn Smythe Trophy to go with the Stanley Cup.
And now, Kane wants to take yet another step.
‘‘You always want to improve your speed and your strength; I’d like to be better in the one-on-one battles this year and make sure I’m coming away with those pucks,’’ said Kane, who lost a few pounds over the summer but looks fitter and stronger than ever. ‘‘I feel like when I do get the time and space, I can make some plays, so I can be a little bit better in that. I think I’m getting better defensively as time goes on here at camp, whether it’s stripping pucks or blocking passes, but you want to do something with those opportunities. All around, from top to bottom, you want to just keep getting better — shot, stickhandling, speed, strength, defensive, everything.’’
That attitude has impressed Hawks coach Joel Quenneville as much as the viral video.
‘‘He’s a special, special player to begin with,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘To not be satisfied where he’s at, you like that type of an attitude going into a season. You like the fact that the best guys, they keep wanting to get better. That’s what makes them special. He gives me the impression that that’s what he’s looking for and he’s going to find a way to do it.’’
So far, so good. Kane entered Tuesday’s game with a scrimmage goal each day of training camp, tying Jimmy Hayes for the team lead. In Monday night’s intrasquad game, he had a goal and two assists. He’s always been a fast starter in the regular season — he had nine points in the first five games last year — but claims he struggles during the preseason. So if he can continue to build momentum and confidence before the Oct. 1 opener against the Washington Capitals, there’s no telling where the next stage of his evolution will take him.
‘‘It’s always nice coming out of the gates hot and trying to score some goals and feel good about yourself for the rest of the season,’’ Kane said. ‘‘But you can always improve on different things. It’s always nice to score, but you can always get better.’’
NOTES: Jonathan Toews (lower body) didn’t play Tuesday and likely won’t Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews will get into games over the weekend, when the Hawks head to Washington, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Patrick Sharp and Ben Smith scored in the Hawks’ 2-0 win, and Corey Crawford made 19 saves. Defenseman Mike Kostka left the game after being boarded by Teemu Pulkkinen early in the first period; he didn’t return.