NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Even as the lone Chicago Blackhawks representative at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, the strong play of his teammates was not lost upon Patrick Kane. At the All-Star media day, Kane was quick to divert praise from himself and laud others for their impressive performances.
"It's different. It would've been nice to have [Jonathan Toews] here with me," Kane said when asked about attending alone in Nashville after going with teammates in the past. "If you look at our team, there's probably a few other guys who could've been picked to play, too."
Kane noted the strong seasons by goaltender Corey Crawford, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and linemate Artemi Panarin as worthy in his eyes of All-Star nominations. "I think it would've been for me to have those guys here with me, too," Kane said. "But you look at the other side, hopefully they're getting some nice rest and recovery for the upcoming part of the season."
Kane also deflected some of the praise off himself despite the tendency of some media members and other players to state their amazement at his performance this season. Asked if he ever stops to take a look at what he's accomplished, Kane was quick to shoot down that notion.
"No, no, not at all. You know, I don't want to look too far ahead, or shed any light on what could be in the future. Right now I'm just trying to take it game-by-game," Kane said. The 27-year-old winger added that he's just trying to enjoy the pace he's at now, especially after being in the points lead for much of last year and having it taken from him due to injury.
Kane had 64 points before suffering a broken clavicle due to an awkward collision with the boards on Feb. 24, 2015. The injury that required surgery and kept him out for the remainder of the 2015 regular season. He returned from injury in time for the start of the 2015Playoffs, four weeks ahead of schedule.
This season, Kane has soared to new heights. At the All-Star break he leads the NHL in all three point categories with 73 points, 30 goals, and 43 assists. He is 15 points ahead of second-place Jamie Benn, who won the 2015 Art Ross trophy with 87 points. The points gap between Kane and Benn is the same as the gap between Benn and the three players tied for 16th in the league in points.
However, while Kane was comfortable recognizing the way his game has progressed to allow to him to produce the way he has, he was also quick to credit Panarin and Artem Anisimov.
"It's been fun playing with Anisimov and Panarin this year. I've had a blast playing with [those] guys," Kane said. "It's been a consistent line from day one, where we've been together pretty much the whole season. Which is something I really haven't been used to in my career."
Kane said for a most of his career, he "envisioned and wanted to play with Toews," but Joel Quenneville was always apprehensive of it. "But then you acquire a guy like Anisimov, he's a left handed center, big, good on faceoffs, battles hard, wins loose pucks. It's like a perfect centerman for me."
Kane also lauded the play of Panarin, calling him the kind of player that has helped Kane have success in his career.
"You look at him, he's great on the puck," Kane siad. "[He] loves to play that puck possession game, he's great on his edges where he can turn, and [keep] the puck and being able lose his defender. I think we play a similar game, we want to play a similar style and it's been a good fit."
Kane's dominance of the NHL this season has been beyond impressive. He is the clear favorite for the Hart Trophy as League MVP and his play has certainly made him more than worthy of that honor. But it's clear both to the fans and to Kane himself that none of this would be possible without the strong play of his teammates, especially the new ones, this year.
Adam Hess is a Staff Writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter at @FeathersInDaHat.