by Scott King
Consideration for Patrick Kane to win the Hart trophy as the league MVP is becoming less devil’s advocate and more practical by the game.
The Hart is supposed to be awarded to the player most valuable to their team, not the most valuable in the league, not the best player, etc.
“He’s been great, no doubt about that,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said following Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Avalanche. “I can just speak for our team, he’s been tremendously valuable. He’s at times carried us on his back.
“Tonight he was fantastic and he’s probably going to find another level too. I know these guys who’ve been around, we get to play in some important games now and they know what it’s like and they love it. They’re hungry, they want more, they want more team success and I expect their level is going to rise even more.”
Friday’s game is a classic example of Kane’s value this season. To keep his streak alive and give Chicago a chance to win, he scored with 29 seconds remaining in the second period, 1:26 after J.T. Compher gave Colorado a 2-1 lead.
Currently, Kane trails only the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov in points (100 to 93). He’s got an advantage in goals over Kucherov (39 to 30), only behind the Capitals Alex Ovechkin (43). Kane’s 54 assists are good for fourth in the NHL.
The fact that Kucherov isn’t cooling off is beyond impressive, but it shouldn’t impose a threat to Kane’s MVP chances. Tampa Bay is a juggernaut, a complete team that even without Kucherov leading the way would likely be dangerous.
They have 98 points and sit in first place in the Atlantic division with 20 games remaining. Boston is in second with 80 points.
“He’s unbelievable,” Kane said of Kucherov. “He’s just so smooth, he gets the puck there’s really no panic. Obviously, his skill level is off the charts. He’s been the best player on the best team for the whole season.
“He’s a big reason why they’re doing so well and you know he wants to bring it and produce every night. I think that attitude goes a long way. He’s doing some special things this year. It’s been fun to watch.”
So how valuable has Patrick Kane been to his team? Well, looking beyond the league-best 20-game point streak (43 points; 17 goals, 26 assists) he’s still riding, how about the fact that the Blackhawks haven’t won when Kane missed a game (1) or didn’t get a point this season. The Hawks are 0-8-2 in those instances.
On the surface, Chicago is a high offensive threat. Either of their top two lines are capable of scoring when on the ice. Alex DeBrincat is having a stellar sophomore season, Dylan Strome might be the most valuable acquisition of the season and Jonathan Toews should end up having one of his best seasons.
But, the fact that the Hawks haven’t won without Kane or without him producing speaks volumes.
After Friday’s game, Jonathan Toews was asked point blank if Kane should win the Hart trophy after this season wraps up.
“Yeah,” Toews said bluntly. “Relative to his team, absolutely. You see who won the Hart Trophy last year (Taylor Hall), and in my book there’s no doubt that he should be taking home some hardware at the end of the season this year.
“But we all know he’s not worried about that right now. He’s worried about keeping his streak going and staying hot and playing his game, and every night he’s a big part of our offense, so it’s pretty incredible to see him do it night after night.”
Time will tell if Kane is able to help the Hawks crawl into the playoffs, they’re three points out of the second wild card spot with 20 games remaining. The fact is Kane was the major factor in turning around what could have been a very disappointing season and elevating his teammates’ play to where there’s hopes for a possible playoff run and hope for the future.
Kane won his first and only Hart trophy following the 2015-2016 season.
Brent Seabrook missed his third straight game with an abdominal strain.
Defenseman Henri Jokiharju was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and replaced Carl Dahlstrom who was out with flu-like symptoms. He played 9:14 in Friday’s game.
Jokiharju played in 37 games before being assigned to Rockford on Jan. 31.
Following the morning skate Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said he hopes to take his concussion protocol test this weekend and expects to travel with the team during their three-game road trip next week.
Crawford hasn’t played since leaving the first period of Dec. 16’s 7-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
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