David Tews The Hockey Writers
Kane’s All-Around Play Helping Hawks
Patrick Kane has earned a reputation as one of the most skilled players in the game over his years in the NHL, but he hasn’t always been known as an effective defensive player to complement his offensive ability. That has changed in a dramatic way in the midst of his historic start to the 2015-16 season. After years of watching the stellar two-way play of Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on a nightly basis, it appears that Kane has finally managed to address many of his defensive issues and been able to make huge offensive strides as a result.
Not only has Kane benefitted from playing with improved line-mates in Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, but he has also increased the effort he puts in on defense to the point where it is now common to see him back-checking opponents to prevent chances against his team. This can be seen numerically through his improved possession and scoring chance stats.
According to puckalytics.com, Kane had a -1.2 CF%RelTM from 2012-2015 despite receiving 42.5% of his zone starts in the offensive zone. This season, Kane has a +3.6 CF%RelTM while also receiving fewer of his starts in the offensive zone than in previous years.
Kane’s effective back-checking combined with his offensive efficiency have allowed him to post the best scoring chance numbers of his career to date. In the past Kane would often sacrifice quantity for quality, and thus found himself forcing pucks into high-scoring areas for the chance of generating a scoring play. His strategy the past few months has been drastically different however, as he has been able to generate more offensive chances while also limiting his opponents.
From 2012-15, Kane had a -2.22 shot differential per 60 minutes in high and medium scoring areas, while he has posted a +5.99 shot differential per 60 minutes in those same areas this season according to war-on-ice.com. Those efforts have helped him post a +11 rating through 25 games, a rating that would already be the second best of his career if the season ended today.
And as if that’s not enough to prove to people that Kane has improved his all-around game this season, he has also added 14 hits in his 25 games, a significant per-game increase from his 22 hits in 61 games last season. Heck, when your physical play earns the recognition of Jeremy Roenick you know you must be doing something right.
As Roenick deftly pointed out, Kane is hungrier for the puck this season, and it has led to him playing harder on both sides of the ice. Fortunately for Kane and the top-heavy Blackhawks, his increased defensive presence has also allowed the team to overcome slow starts from Hossa and Toews to post a competitive 13-9-3 record. If he can maintain this level of play for the entire season, Kane should easily lock up the Hart Trophy and be able to carry the Blackhawks deep into the postseason once again.
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