Scorching Patrick Kane the difference for Blackhawks vs. Wild
There are a number of reasons that the Blackhawks were able to sweep the Minnesota Wild, but when it comes down to it, the Blackhawks had Patrick Kane and the Wild did not.
When Patrick Kane went down with a broken clavicle against the Florida Panthers back at the end of February, there were obviously concerns that related not only to his individual health, but how successful this team could be without him. They had already scuffled a bit, and those concerns only became validated when the Chicago Blackhawks spent most of the month of March struggling to come up with any offense.
The original diagnosis had Kane pegged for a 10-12 week absence, which would have had him out until the conference finals. That was assuming the Blackhawks would have made it to that point. Yet, even with the doom and gloom surrounding the injury, it never really felt like Kane was going to be out that long. As it would turn out, those suspicions were accurate, as Kane was able to return for the first round matchup against the Nashville Predators.
His absence did ignite some pretty large concerns in the interim about how far this team could actually go without its superstar. While the injury did allow the Hawks to add the likes of Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen at the trade deadline, moves which wouldn't have been possible with a completely healthy roster (and moves which also have ignited conspiracy theories about Kane's initial injury not being serious, which will not find themselves linked here because of how nonsensical the idea is), they also scored two or less goals a dozen times in his absence.
The importance of Patrick Kane doesn't have to be quantified with extensive fancy statistics or anything of the like. Few players are as integral to his team's success as Patrick Kane is. That was proven in his absence. And with the switch that was flipped when the playoffs rolled around, as the Blackhawks have gone 8-2 in these here playoffs thus far, it's been proven in his return.
Patrick Kane recently surpassed his 100th career postseason game (he's only 26), having since run that total up to 103 games. In those 103 games, he's notched 104 points. As such, he's a top ten player in the league, in terms of actual playoff points among active players. This postseason, in which he's coming off of a serious injury, is already panning out to be one of his best, as he's put himself firmly in the driver's seat for a potential Conn Smythe Trophy if the Blackhawks are able to continue their early postseason success.
Through the 10 games in which the Blackhawks have appeared in these NHL playoffs, Patrick Kane has notched a point in nine of them, with 13 overall. He came back from that injury and immediately made an impact, with a pair of assists. Even if the timing wasn't there, he still looked like a threat every time he touched the puck. Funny thing about that timing: Patrick Kane still doesn't think he has it. That's terrifying.
As solid as he was against Nashville, with seven of his playoff points coming against the Predators, it was against the Wild that we really saw him catch fire, and show the rest of the league just how terrified they should be of this Blackhawks team and their switch flippin' ways.
With his goal on Thursday night, Kane has now found the back of the net in five consecutive games, the longest streak of his playoff career. He scored five goals during the series sweep against the Minnesota Wild, which was equivalent to the amount of goals that the entire Wild team scored during the series. In Games 2 & 3, the former of which included a two-goal performance, Kane notched the game-winning tally for the Blackhawks. He turned Devan Dubnyk, a goaltender that came into the playoffs scorching hot and left many Hawks fans wary (including yours truly) back into his mediocre self and completely took the series over.
His playoff showing to this point has been absurdly good, and it becomes even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that Kane wasn't even supposed to be playing yet. Would the Blackhawks even still be playing if Kane weren't in the lineup? Not that they haven't gotten strong performances up and down the lineup, because they have. But it's Kane that is truly the catalyst for this team's success.
It shouldn't be a surprise to us at this point. He's showcased again and again throughout his career how truly special a talent he actually is. But even coming off of an injury like that, which is supposed to limit you when you return, Kane hasn't been slowed. He's as hot as he's been at any point this season. When the puck is on his stick, he's a threat to put the puck in the back of the net at any point.
That should be a terrifying thought for any team remaining in this year's postseason, regardless of future opponents for these Blackhawks.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.