The mullet was flying, the mouth guard was halfway out, as usual, and Patrick Kane
zipped around the rink just being the star that he's become for the Chicago Blackhawks.
It's a sight that Hawks fans have gotten used to watching the past couple of years -- so much so that it's kind of easy to take Kane's contributions for granted. That is, until the merry-go-round of goals and assists came to a screeching halt against Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Final.
Until Sunday, Kane's offensive production was going about as well as his "Mullet Mania" T-shirt is selling on the concourse concession stands -- not overly impressive. Kane and captain Jonathan Toews
have taken a good amount of heat for not producing enough against the Flyers, but that all changed during Sunday night's 7-4 win inside a juiced United Center.
Especially so for Kane, who was often around the puck during a two-point night in which he potted his second goal of the series and ninth of the playoffs, and set up Patrick Sharp
's 10th of the postseason.
Yet, when he came to the podium, Kane wasn't exactly thrilled by his performance.
"Sometimes you get the puck in different situations and sometimes you're just feeling it out there," he said. "To be honest with you, I didn't think I played great."
When asked if maybe he was just being too hard on himself in that assessment, Kane maintained it wasn't his best game. The area that needed some improvement, in his estimation? Defense.
"The third (Philly) goal there, I made a turnover where they ended up scoring," he said. "You always want to get yourself into the game as soon as possible and make plays, but I think in my own end I can be better."
In short, you know things are going good for the Hawks when an offensive star like Kane is critiquing his defensive play on a night that he scores a goal, sets up another and helps spark a three-goal win that puts his team just one away from winning hockey's ultimate prize.
Veteran Hawks center John Madden just shook his head when asked if it felt good to see Kane get the monkey off his back. Kane, he said, is doing more than people may realize. He said the true strength of this team lies in its profound scoring depth, which was displayed by having six different players account for the seven goals.
"Media makes a big deal out of it, because when they look at Kane and he's not scoring ... that's all they look at," Madden said. "The big thing (against Philly) is, you know ... he's going against a good hockey club. He's got to battle through some stuff, and that's why you need other people to score some goals. That's how you win hockey games, especially in the playoffs."
That's the reason why the most pressure applied to Kane, Toews or Dustin Byfuglien -- who also had a big night -- comes either from media outlets or within themselves. It's not coming from their peers.
"Nobody in this locker room is looking at Kaner or Buff or Toews or whoever else might not be filling the net," Madden said. "It's the playoffs and everybody needs to find a way to contribute."
Kane did in this game by melding into a new line like he'd been playing forever with Sharp at center and Andrew Ladd on the opposite wing. Kane didn't find out which line he'd be skating with until before the game, but it obviously didn't throw him off.
If anything, splitting up the Kane-Toews-Byfuglien line gave the Hawks a boost they'd been lacking all series. It also gave Sharp a chance to have some fun working next to Kane, who helped make it 6-3 at 16:08 in the third after a fortunate bounce brought the puck to his stick for a 3-on-1.
After skating the puck into the Flyers' zone, Kane made a perfect feed and watched as "Shooter" Sharp launched a laser past Brian Boucher.
"He's awesome to play with," Sharp said. "He's fun to watch when he gets that puck. He keeps his feet moving and when I'm out there with him I just try to get open. We don't care if he scores or doesn't score, as long as we win games."
Author: Brian Hedger | NHL.com Correspondent