For all of the accomplishments that Patrick Kane has earned over the course of his career, it is hard to believe that much has eluded him. He is already a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, Conn Smythe Winner, Calder Trophy Winner, and he is currently the front-runner in the race towards the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy.
— NHL (@NHL) January 15, 2016
However, in all of his nine years in the NHL, he had never once recorded a hat trick in the regular season. That all changed on Friday night as the Blackhawks went into the Air Canada Centre for their Original Six matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He has two postseason hat tricks, but incredibly he had never earned one in the regular season. Perhaps, he knew it was National Hat Day.
“I think I’ve had a few two-goal games. It just never really happened,” Kane said of his hat trick. “I wouldn’t trade the two in the playoffs for anything in the regular season.”
Even Joel Quenneville was surprised that his star winger had never collected a regular season hat trick.
“It’s nice to see him finally get one,” Quenneville said. “I had no clue it was his first hat trick. I would have bet he would have more than a handful.”
— NHL (@NHL) January 16, 2016
A Hat Trick For Patrick
In spite of what their record would indicate, the Leafs are a dangerous team having taken out the Dallas Stars (2), St. Louis Blues (2), Los Angeles Kings, and Nashville Predators already this season. All teams that are expected to factor in come April. The Blackhawks had played the night before in Montreal, so the Leafs were looking to take advantage of their fresh legs to get a jump on the red-hot Blackhawks.
Patrick Kane had other ideas.
After a goal by Andrew Shaw had been waved off in the first period, the momentum had shifted to Toronto. However, in the second, as a Toronto penalty ticked off the clock, Patrick Kane received a pass right through the blue paint from Duncan Keith that gave him a wide open cage behind James Reimer. First blood was drawn and the momentum had shifted back in Chicago’s favor.
Kane got his second goal on the power play as Artemi Panarin sent a blistering pass across the ice to a wide open Kane. A pass that likely would have flipped right over the stick of many a skater, but Kane caught the puck mid-air and roofed it. The dynamic duo had capitalized on a Toronto penalty.
He returned the favor to the Breadman on a similar play early in the third for an assist, just nine seconds into a five-on-three power play caused by a pair of penalties that proved costly for the Leafs. Toronto committed six penalties and the Blackhawks made them pay twice.
“Bottom line is that special teams killed us,” said Babcock. “In the end you’re disappointed. I liked our approach, I liked our plan but in the end you can’t give up those goals and you can’t be short-handed against that team.”
Kane wrapped up the hat trick with an empty-netter in the closing minutes of the third to a shower of caps, many of them emblazoned with red and black. Kane ended the night with four points while Panarin added three of his own. Brent Seabrook also contributed two assists, and Scott Darling put forth a solid effort between the pipes in relief of Corey Crawford in the second half of their back-to-back.
The Bread and Butter Line
After the game on Friday, Patrick Kane is well in control of the scoring lead with 67 points. Jamie Benn added one in the Stars loss, but he is currently in second with 54 points. Kane (28) is also leading Benn (26) in goals, and Erik Karlsson (36) in assists with 39.
Artemi Panarin is currently making his case as the front-runner for the Calder Trophy. He leads all rookies in scoring (42), goals (16), and assists (26). The closest challengers would appear to be Arizona’s Max Domi (31 points, 13 goals, 18 assists) and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin (30 points, 14 goals, 16 assists). Any of the three would be worthy candidates and the return of Connor McDavid should bring yet another contender, though it remains to be seen whether he can make up enough ground to catch the other three rookies.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 16, 2016
The Blackhawks second line of Kane, Panarin and Artem Anisimov (24 points, 15 goals, 9 assists) has only been held off the scoresheet five times collectively, with Kane being blanked just seven times. The trio currently leads the league in point production by a single line with 28 goals when they are on the ice together. The next closest is the combination of Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Patrick Sharp (25) which comes as no surprise.
Dallas’ Benn and Seguin have been kept off the scoresheet nine times between them since the first of the year while Sharp has accrued five points. However, as that line has struggled to find the same level of production of late, the Stars have gone 1-4-1 since 2016 began. This drought is unlikely to continue for any length of time as their collective skills are far too potent, but when they aren’t clicking Dallas has struggled.
Streaks and Standings
This season has been defined by streaks for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane’s incredible 26-game streak, and the ten game streak they started just before the new year. One more, and they tie a record for longest streak in the Quenneville era (11).
Before the streak began, the Blackhawks trailed the Dallas Stars by 13 points and were barely clinging to a wild card spot behind the Stars, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and Minnesota Wild. What a difference ten games can make, as the Preds are out of the race for the moment, St. Louis is battling yet another wave of injuries, and the Wild are struggling to find a rhythm.
— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) January 16, 2016
With a loss for the Dallas Stars on Friday, the Blackhawks have now taken sole possession of the top spot in the Central, as well as the Western Conference with a total of 64 points. They also added their tenth win and are the only team that is still undefeated in 2016.
The Dallas Stars face off against the Sharks in San Jose in the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday. A win will help them regain the tie for first in the Central (they have two games in hand). A loss will give Chicago a chance to widen the gap the following night.
The Blackhawks will be back in action against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on Sunday night. They will be looking to stay hot and grab their 11th straight win.
Kristi is a long time hockey fan who grew up in, and around hockey rinks across the United States and Canada. A native Chicagoan, Loucks has always been an avid Blackhawks fan. Kristi also covers the Chicago Cubs and writes suspense thrillers, when not covering the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow Kristi on twitter @louckske