By Larry Wigge
He has the knack that it takes you to score goals ... at any time.
Only a few days before, Patrick Kane was being asked why he wasn't producing to the level expected of him. He had only scored three playoffs goals in his last 24 games.
He talked about sitting with his father, Patrick Sr., and watching video clips of past Stanley Cup Playoff goals, looking for anything that could help him shake his scoring slump.
"It is surreal ... how one day I can't get into position to score ..."
The Buffalo, native, kind of had a moment outside of himself -- a moment he didn't even know he had, before he continued, "I mean, I expected more from myself. You know, I tried to get back to the basics and wanted the puck, get the puck, try and make plays. That's kind of my attitude right now, I guess, is to do that."
The 24-year-old scored three times -- the hat trick -- in the Western Conference Finals Game 5 to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 double overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings. His game-winning goal came 11:40 into the second overtime on a two-on-one breakway, when he one-timed a pass from Jonathan Toews high into the net to beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Wayne Gretzky last accomplished the feat, scoring a hat trick against Toronto to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals against Montreal in 1993.
Kane had 23 goals and 32 assists in 47 games to lead the Blackhawks in scoring. But it was in the playoffs that his numbers began falling off. In his first 15 postseason games, he had two goals.
What Kane found out was that he had to work at his trade. It seems like a long time ago, when young Patrick was just a small guy ... 5-foot-10 and 163, before he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The scouts said that he was too small to take handle all of the big bodies he would face on a nightly basis in the heavy hitting in the NHL. But all he has done is average is score 149 goals in just 446 games in six seasons -- an average of 24.8 per season.
The size of his heart was just fine. His playmaking is off-the-boards. His deceptiveness -- in and out of moves -- is exceptional.
Oh, Patrick Kane never forgot the knack -- only mislaid it a little. Every goalie covers the bottom part of the net. SHOOT HIGH. That's the ticket that Kane remembered. All three goals went high into the net against Quick.
"Right now, it feels like the best goal I've scored ..."
Kane again thought for a second, then continued, "June 10 or June 9 a few years ago (when the Hawks won the Cup) was also a good night. Right now, it's almost like I'm in a different zone, the Twilight Zone or something, I'm kind of out of it. But it's definitely a good feeling."
"He stepped up," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Kane. "He took responsibility of leading the team. He's proven he's a top player in the game ... Top players, they want to be great all of the time, finding a way to be great in the tight checking that many teams have.
"Patrick has put some expectations on himself. He's really in the right place. You really like how he challenges himself."
The aforementioned most iconic goals in Blackhawks history when he clinched the Cup with an overtime winner in Game 6 of the 2010 Final against the Philadelphia Flyers.
He is the son of Patrick and Donna Kane. Patrick had a car dealership in Buffalo -- and once sold a car to Dominek Hasek.
On one wall there is Patrick at 2 or 3, sitting in his father's lap in the background of a poster of American hockey great Pat LaFontaine.
In another picture, little Patrick is wearing the jersey of Hasek. There's also a picture of Patrick at 7 or 8 with his favorite player growing up, Joe Sakic.
After Patrick finished 3rd grade, the guy in charge of the house league told his father: "I have to give you your money back. We've had too many complaints. Your kid is scoring too many goals."
Well, not to many complaints ... now.
Kane has always dealt with the too-small side of the equation.
"It's the size of his heart that's more important," Florida GM Dale Tallon said remembering when he was the Blackhawks GM and pulled the trigger on Kane. "Guys his size that play the perimeter, you have concerns about moving up to the next level. But Pat gets his nose dirty, gets into the traffic areas and he doesn't get knocked down. He has a solid, wide base for his size, and when he gets stronger it's going to be even more difficult to knock him down.
"It was at the World Junior tournament where we really saw how good he was. That's an under-20 tournament, and 18-year-olds usually struggle. But he was one of the best players and one of the youngest players over there. That spoke volumes."
Said Kane, "I've been the little guy in a game of bigger guys all my life. I'm not going to change my game of trying to be assertive. I'm not taking anything from anybody."
He remembered ...
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, "In the end, probably their two best offensive guys made a great play to score the goal"
"I think it just helps you relax every time you get the puck afterward," Toews said, obviously doing a little research of his own on the subject.
But the celebration ... it was like he had never scored a goal before, Patrick Kane sliding on the ice.
Kane remarked, "We were laughing about it after the game, saying if you watched the bench, it seemed like just another goal because we were all so tired."
But Kane had plenty to celebrate.