Patrick Kane hoping ‘history repeats itself’ with late-round rebound
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter May 25, 2014 6:51PM
at Hawks 3
at Hawks 2
at Kings 4
8 p.m. Monday
at Kings, NBCSN
7 p.m. Wednesday
at Hawks, NBCSN
GAME 6 if necessary
8 p.m. Friday
at Kings, NBCSN
GAME 7 if necessary
7 p.m. Sunday
at Hawks, NBCSN
Updated: May 25, 2014 10:35PM
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — It was a year ago at this exact same point in the exact same series that Patrick Kane sat — no, slumped — in his locker stall at the Staples Center and poured his heart out, talking about how he and his dad were watching clips of postseason goals past just to remind him that, yes, he was still a good player in this league.
He hadn’t scored in seven games. He had just two goals in 15 playoff games. He was dejected and borderline despondent.
Then he went out and scored the game-tying goal in Game 4. Added a hat trick in Game 5, including the series-winner. Scored three more times in the Stanley Cup Final. Earned himself a second Cup and a first Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
“You hope history repeats itself,” Kane said. “And you can do the same thing.”
It wasn’t quite the same setting, nor was it the same situation, on Sunday at Blackhawks practice. Kane was standing, for one thing. He was at the Kings’ practice rink in El Segundo, for another. But more importantly, he sounded more determined than discouraged, more confident than cowed.
Kane hasn’t scored through the first three games of this Western Conference final, and he’s a minus-4 over the last two games, both losses. After scoring five goals in the first seven games of this postseason, he’s got just one in the last eight — it was a big one, the series-clincher against Minnesota, but it was the only one in more than three weeks.
It’s a mild slump by most players’ standards. But Kane has higher standards than most.
“He tends to be harder on himself when he’s not producing or getting the results on paper,” Jonathan Toews said. “Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not playing as well with the puck, or not creating anything. He just has to stay with it, and once that first one goes in, he’ll be back to himself again.”
In Saturday’s Game 3, the Hawks’ second line of Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Kane had disastrous possession numbers. When Kane was on the ice in 5-on-5 situations, the Kings had 18 shot attempts, while the Hawks had just eight. To contrast, when Marian Hossa was on the ice, the Kings had six shot attempts, while the Hawks had 19. The Kings’ second line, led by the scorching-hot Jeff Carter, had its way with Kane’s line for much of the night.
Joel Quenneville gave Ben Smith and Andrew Shaw stints at centering the second line when the Hawks were chasing the lead in the third period, but wouldn’t tip his hand at any possible line changes for Game 4 on Monday. He said he thought Kane had been “dangerous” and was knocking on the door.
Kane said the lineup isn’t his call. But regardless, Kane thinks he has the solution — for himself, and for whoever’s on his line.
“Demand the puck,” he said. “And when I do get it, be confident with it. Those two things usually will lead to better games for myself.”
The structurally sound Kings certainly have played a role in Kane’s struggles. As a left-side defenseman, Jake Muzzin sees plenty of Kane coming down the right wing. He said the key to containing Kane is to always keep tabs on where he is on the ice, to take away his options and force him to the outside, as far from the net as possible.
“He wants a nice game where he can do what he wants to do, and if you take that away, that’s your best chance,” Muzzin said. “He’s undercover fast — he doesn’t look like he’s going fast, but he is. … You’ve got to play hard on that guy, or he’ll make you look silly.”
As Muzzin pointed out, eventually, Kane’s going to get his chances, and he’s probably going to get his goals. He did last year in Games 4 and 5 against the Kings. He did earlier in this postseason. He will again.
But trailing 2-1 in the series with a crucial game looming, Kane just hopes it’s sooner rather than later.
“For anyone, it would affect them when you’re not playing well,” Kane said. “Going through this a few times before, you kind of know how to get yourself out of it a little bit more than maybe someone that’s going through it for the first time. I just need to try to get the puck, make plays, be confident with it, and let my instincts take over.”