As we near the turn of the calendar to 2014 portion of the '13-'14 campaign, the Chicago Blackhawks have a pair of players currently in the mix for major awards by the time the season comes to a close, if they keep up at their current rate. One of those players is Duncan Keith, who is playing at a Norris Trophy level once again, while the other is Patrick Kane, playing what has been quite possibly the best hockey of his career.
The transformation of Patrick Kane with the Blackhawks over the course of the last few years has been something to behold. The narrative basically says that he went from frustrating party boy to serious hockey player, almost overnight, after a number of wakeup calls and stern talking-to's from the organization. The real story isn't too far off, as Kane has matured, mentally and physically, in becoming the best American born player in the game today.
To date, Kane's 2013-14 season has featured two separate 12-game point streaks, one of which is ongoing. Those streaks are separated by just one game, meaning he's notched at least a point in 24 of his last 25 tilts. He's on pace to obliterate his previous career marks, both for points and for goals. He's already found the back of the net 22 times this season, leaving him on pace for 45. His career high is 30.
Kane's currently sitting in second in the league in points, behind only Sidney Crosby, with 49 in 39 games. His 22 goals have him currently in third, with his nine power play goals coming in second. Six of his goals have been of the game-winning variety, trailing Corey Perry by only one. He's at a plus-8 on the year and rising.
The thing about what Patrick Kane has done is that we're witnessing his progression all over the board. While Joel Quenneville is unlikely to trot him out on the penalty kill regularly anytime soon, he's shown progress as a two-way player in the last couple of years and has shown more of a willingness to take the body on his way to the net. He's not trying to do too much. He's recognizing plays and setting up his teammates, while finding the back of the net plenty on his own.
This is the highest level at which we've seen Patrick Kane at any point in his career, all things considered. His ability to take over a game has been realized on a nightly basis this season. That willingness to go to the middle and not simply hang out on the wing in order to avoid contact has helped transform him into even more of a threat and have the Blackhawks easily leading the league in offensive output per game.
It's going to be tough for Kane to pry the Hart away from the likes of Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, especially considering the latter's absurd ability to put the puck in the net this year. But this buzz that Patrick Kane has received for the Hart is real, even if a bit overplayed at this point. He's one of the top three players in the league at this point, and should garner some significant attention to take home the hardware at season's end.