Blackhawks' Patrick Kane clutch again on NHL's biggest stage
Chicago Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
CHICAGO - For Patrick Kane, it wasn’t the Stanley Cup winning goal this time, though it may as well have been.
The fact is, there might not have been a clincher in the decisive Game 6 of the Cup final if it weren’t for the clutch, offensive brilliance of the Buffalo native and Chicago Blackhawks superstar.
As he has been so often in a career that has steadily seen him develop into one of the best big-game, big-play offensive forces in the game, Kane took centre stage in one of the biggest sporting moments this hockey-loving, Original Six city has ever seen.
What a time to set Conn Smythe Trophy winner Duncan Keith free on a break to open the scoring late in the second period and send the party alert back to Rush Street and the rest of a downtown ready to burst.
Then, at 14:46 of the second, Kane finished off a perfect Brad Richards feed to produce the first multi-goal lead of the series for either team and bring the house down.
And what a house it was. Salivating at the first chance to win the Cup at home since 1938, they came 22,424 strong, in full voice from the raucous national anthem until the conclusion where the final horn couldn’t be heard.
They sweated out the early Tampa Bay Lightning surge and then celebrated along with Kane, who could barely control his joy after the clincher in the 2-0 victory.
“The good thing is on our team, on any given night, someone can step up,” Kane said of his clutch, two-point performance that gave him 23 in the post season and tied for the scoring lead with the Lightning’s Tyler Johnson. “I felt pretty good tonight. It’s exciting to contribute.
“(Hawks captain Jonathan Toews) came up to me today and told me, “Everything I’m touching tonight is turning into goals.’”
The Hawks were confident that they could win it at home and celebrate in style, they just were gun shy to talk about it in the days leading up to Game 6. Not wanting to get ahead of themselves, the players talked about it not mattering where the Cup was won, as long as it returned to Chicago.
But as much as any on the team, Kane appreciated the city he plays in, the passion of the Original Six fans and the opportunity that awaited to celebrate with them on Monday. You’d need ice in your veins not to get jacked at the anthem, one of the must-see moments in sport and none more so than on Monday.
For Game 6, it was the musical introduction to a night that never ceased to entertain.
“Everyone wants to talk about the anthem and the energy that brings our team,” Kane said. “Our fans have been special ever since we started selling out and they’ve been along for the ride, too.
‘It was a chance for this organization to do something special. It’s one of those things where (on the night before the game), you’re tossing and turning and your mind is racing.”
Like Jonathan Toews and like Keith, Kane has been a massive part of this dynasty and has seen his game develop along with it. And who can forget his celebration when he scored the Cup winner for the first of three Cups in the past six years?
“It’s special,” Kane said of winning a third Cup in six years for a team that continues to re-stock and is so damn playoff tested it brings opponents to their knees.
“”It’s not something everyone is going to go through, not just in the game of hockey, but pretty much any sport, to have this opportunity to play for three in six years. I don’t want to say it’s something we’re accustomed to, something we’re used to ... I think we’ve worked hard for it, too.
“I think it’s something we all deserve.”
Few would argue that, especially after a game Tampa Bay opponent that made the Hawks earn it all and more. And none would be more deserving than Kane himself.