Those first two strides? Yeah, they are that much quicker. That strength? Yup, it is that much greater. That consistency? Oh, no question it is that much better.
Just like you, Kane also believes he has taken his game to new heights this season, his third in the NHL. He has points in 11-straight games and already has 50 this season on 19 goals and 32 assists. Only five players have more points entering Sunday's action.
Last season, Kane battled an ankle injury for most of the last three months leading into the playoffs and his numbers (25 goals, 45 assists for 70 points in 80 games) took a hit. He had two more points as a rookie when he won the Calder Memorial Trophy.
He should shatter his previous career high once this season is over.
"I think it's just growing into your body a bit," Kane told NHL.com. "You get more mature and you get stronger. I worked hard this summer and our strength coach put up a great program for me. It was real easy for me to go online and print out the workouts I wanted to do to get stronger for the season. It wasn't a program to get strong necessarily, but more to better your hockey body. It was to get strong for the game."
Kane said he would go to his local gym near his home in Buffalo with his father and would spend two or two-and-a-half hours inside.
"There were a lot of days where my heart was racing pretty good," he said. "If you look at the results, it was all worth it."
Kane's longest scoring drought this season was three games, and that was in early October after the Hawks got back from Finland, where they played against Florida in the Compuware NHL Premiere.
He's had points in all but 10 games this season.
"Right from the outset this year he has really progressed well from last year," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He looks strong and quicker. His has gotten to a new level this year. I like his strength in the puck area and his quickness. And he has the puck a lot on his stick and he's always a threat when he does that."
Kane was really scuffling at this time last season. He injured his ankle right before the Hawks hosted the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, but he played in that game before sitting out the next two.
It was the only two games he missed, but he finished January with only one goal, two assists and a minus-6 rating in 12 games.
"I probably should have taken more time off, I think," Kane admitted. "I tried to play through it. It probably wasn't really better until the last couple of weeks going into playoffs. It's fun to be healthy, that's for sure. You knock on wood about that stuff."
Everyone in Chicago does, especially when it comes to Kane. It's been well documented how the Hawks rise to become the NHL's best team has coincided with Kane's development, but Kane credits his teammates for a lot of that, too.
"One of the things about our team right now is we have so many options and balance that it makes it easier for me," he said. "You're not going against top defenders every shift. We have so much balance and the team we have really helps me out. It's a credit to that.
"It does feel good to put up some numbers and contribute," he added. "That's what I was brought in here to do. So, it feels good. It's one of those leagues you have to learn how to play in. Once you start to learn the game and the open areas it helps and bodes well."
And, once your speed, strength and consistency catch up to your potential, you can get on a roll like Kane is on right now.
"Definitely from last season with the ankle injury I probably got slower as the season went on, but I came into this year and felt I was a lot faster," Kane said. "Just those one or two steps help. If you get that much room on a player in this League you should be able to do some damage." Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer