Kane’s body has held up better than he expected while averaging over 22 minutes per game under Derek King.
NEW YORK — Patrick Kane’s ability to remember specific statistics with laser-like accuracy can be freaky at times.
Some recent examples are his faceoff numbers and percentage from 2011-12 (his one season playing center) and interim coach Derek King’s career points. He rattled them off, right on the dot, in interviews.
But when Kane checked the ice-time data after the Blackhawks’ victory Thursday against the Capitals, he — for once — didn’t expect the number he saw.
“I was actually surprised to see I was up at the 25 [minute] mark,” he said Friday. “I thought I’d be at maybe 22 or 23.”
Indeed, Kane played 25:30, adding the last few minutes in overtime. And that has been a trend under King. After averaging 20:45 in eight games under Jeremy Colliton — playing less than 20 minutes four times — Kane has averaged 22:38 in 10 games under King (entering Saturday) and played less than 20 minutes only once.
That’s not a coincidence. King joked when he first took over that his approach to ice time was “simple — just keep putting Kane out.” It turns out it wasn’t entirely a joke.
“Guys like him [and Jonathan] Toews, those top guys, they need to play, and they need to get some extra shifts here and there,” King said Friday. “That’s how they feel good.
“It’s a rhythm, right? They can’t just play every four shifts and expect to play their game. They need to be on the ice. So certainly [in some] situations, like faceoffs in the offensive zone, I can throw him out with any line or put their line out again and try to get them out as much as I can.”
Kane, of course, will never complain about more playing time. His unwillingness to limit his workload even when his body didn’t feel 100%, whether because of injury or his -COVID-19 bout this fall, was a running punch line between him and Colliton.
And his body has held up well. He worried about that at times during summer training — as he battled a lingering injury that slowed him down late last season — but entered training camp optimistic it wouldn’t hinder him this season. That optimism has been justified.
“I feel good,” he said. “It’s always a work in progress, but I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. It’s probably better than I expected.”
The one area he’s not completely satisfied with is his scoring.
He entered Saturday having tallied just two points — both assists — in his last six games after recording 12 points in the preceding seven-game stretch.
“I felt really good about my game going into the Western [Canada] trip,” he said. “I had some chances there, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, to get on the board. And then all of a sudden, they don’t go in, and you’re thinking about producing a little bit more.
“The last few games, I haven’t had as many chances as the ones before, but our line is still creating. [Toews has] had a few chances pretty much every game we’ve played, so you try to read off that a little bit and keep trying to develop as a line.”
But Kane then tallied a goal and an assist against the Rangers, upping his season total to 21 points in 19 games keeping pace with Seth Jones (who has played four more games) for the Hawks’ team scoring lead.
Kane’s shot attempt frequency rate sits back around his career average this year after dipping last year to its lowest since 2009. That has yet to translate into many goals — his shooting percentage is 8.8%, well below his 11.8% career average — but an upswing seems likely.
And King is clearly happy to give him all the time he needs to jumpstart that upswing.