Mature Kane gains league acclaim
CHICAGO – In 446 career games that have included more than 8,500 minutes of ice time, Patrick Kane has been tempted to drop his gloves and pound an opponent with bare fists.
Each time, the Blackhawks’ forward has thought twice before impersonating a hockey goon.
“There’s been a few times I’ve wanted to. It just hasn’t really happened,” Kane said with a grin Thursday at the United Center. “I thought it might have happened against Anaheim this year with [Saku] Koivu at the end of the game.
“I don’t know. It’s not something you really think about when you’re getting ready for a game. If it happens, it happens, so we’ll see.”
The guess here is that it will not.
Kane, 24, was named as one of three finalists for the NHL’s Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given every year to the player who best combines skill and sportsmanship. Other finalists include Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders.
Being a finalist for one of the league’s many trophies is one thing, but Kane’s nomination represents something bigger. He has matured on the ice and seemingly off of it as well, avoiding the pitfalls that dogged him as a young superstar in his first few seasons.
As a rookie, Kane had 52 penalty minutes, many of which resulted from a lack of discipline. The next season, Kane improved slightly in that category but still had 42 penalty minutes.
As for this season? Kane earned all of eight penalty minutes in 47 games.
“I think it kind of speaks volumes of where my game has gone since my rookie season,” said Kane, who could become the Hawks’ first Lady Byng winner since Stan Mikita won the award during back-to-back seasons in 1967 and 1968. “I remember I used to take a lot of penalties that were kind of unnecessary, and I got that out of my game a little bit.”
It’s fair to say that Kane had some nudging along the way.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville remembered benching his winger after one too many penalties. Kane quickly got the message and worked on improving his focus on the ice.
“That’s all part of it,” Quenneville said. “But I thought each and every year ‘Kaner’ has gotten better as a player in all aspects of his game. He’s gotten stronger and better and he’s growing up, as well. It’s a real nice progression in his career.”
That career already includes one Stanley Cup title, and it could feature a second if all goes according to plan this spring for the Hawks. Kane leads the team with six assists in the playoffs but remains in search of his first playoff goal after scoring 23 during the regular season.
The Hawks will host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon for Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, where they will look to improve upon a 1-0 series lead.
Barring a wild turn of events, Kane will not drop his gloves.
Nor will he apologize for being a Lady Byng finalist.
“Like they say in the [description], it’s skill and sportsmanship put together,” Kane said. “I think it’s an award that you want to be up for. I’m excited about it and I think it’s a great honor, for sure.”