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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
MVP Kane peaked at the right time

By Pierre LeBrun



BOSTON -- Patrick Kane looked like a lost puppy.

It was June 5, on the eve of Game 4 in the Western Conference finals, and the Chicago Blackhawks' star winger was trying to explain to the media contingent why he was in a seven-game goalless drought.

He said he still believed in himself. He said he watched a video with his dad showing all his career playoff goals in order to boost his confidence and his morale. And he promised he would be better.

Hard to believe on that day in Los Angeles three weeks ago that Kane would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL playoff MVP, right?

"You know, I don't really have a specific answer," Kane said of the reason behind his turnaround since that day. "Especially I think it was Game 4 in L.A., I knew I needed to get the puck and start moving with it and try to create some chances. It ended up working out. I mean, you're playing with two great players with [Jonathan] Toews and [Bryan] Bickell. They made hockey really easy the past couple weeks for me."

Hey, Dad, you get some credit, too. Pat Sr., after all, came up with the idea to watch the video with his son.

"I was just being a father at that point," said Pat Kane, watching his son celebrate on the ice with his teammates. "The management of the Blackhawks got real involved and helped him get back on track. It’s amazing what happened from Game 4 on."

Reunited with old pal Toews on a line with Bickell midway through Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, Kane scored a goal that night at Staples Center, and he was on his way. As in seven goals and two assists over his final eight games of the playoffs, saving his best for last en route to a second Stanley Cup in four years.

Hawks veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook remembers trying to encourage Kane during his seven-game goalless drought.

"Kaner is a guy that needs to play with the puck. A few of us talked to him," said Seabrook. "We have a good D core, so we can give him the puck. When he’s playing with the puck, he’s so dynamic and skilled and fun to watch. Sometimes we watch him a little bit too much. But he’s a great player, and once he started to get it into gear, he was going to be lights-out. He was lights-out in this series and the last couple games against L.A."

Kane’s hat trick in the series-clinching game against the Kings, and his two goals in a pivotal Game 5 win in the Cup finals will be most remembered.

"He really did step up," Hawks GM Stan Bowman told ESPN.com. "It’s a testament to his big-game ability. There’s not many guys in the world that when the stakes get so high, he’s able to elevate his game even higher. That’s what makes him so special. ...

"He’s a big-game player. There’s not a lot of guys like him. He wants the puck, he wants to be the guy who has that pressure on him. And he’s able to come through."

No question, putting Toews and Kane back together was key. Head coach Joel Quenneville split them up the first three games of the Cup finals to get Kane away from Zdeno Chara. But all it did was hurt both Toews’ and Kane’s productivity. They were back together for Game 4 and they were an unstoppable force, making Chara look human. Toews retrieved pucks, Bickell’s physical presence opened up ice, and it all allowed Kane to move more freely and become a more dangerous player.

"We actually came up with a name for myself this morning, calling me the 'Benefish,' for the beneficiary of all their hard work," Kane said, laughing. "I had a couple chances to finish and ended up doing that, so got to give them the credit."

Toews was the Conn Smythe winner in 2010, and on this night, the ailing Hawks captain (he had his bell rung in Game 5) was easily the best player on the ice for either team, willing Chicago to the Cup-clinching victory.

But Toews felt the decision by the Conn Smythe Trophy voters (a committee of writers of which I was a member) was the right one.

"He deserves it," Toews said. "We said it last time when we won in Philly that there’s a handful of guys at least that could win that trophy and I said there’s nobody more deserving than Kaner. But you’ve got to give it to guys like [Duncan Keith] and [Patrick Sharp] and even Bicks and [Corey Crawford]. Guys played great. We needed some heroes, and obviously Kaner was one of them."

It was indeed a difficult choice this year. The Hawks had a number of good options for the MVP: Sharp scored 10 playoff goals; Crawford was real solid in goal, saving his best performance for the final game; Keith was a monster all playoffs long, playing the most minutes.

"There could have been a lot of guys that could have won it," Kane said. "I was blessed to win it. It’s a great feeling."

For Kane, 24, it capped a wonderful season in which he stepped up his game after seemingly appearing to regress a bit the previous two seasons.

"We wouldn’t be here without him," Toews said. "He’s a hell of a player and a hell of a kid. I’m very, very happy for him."