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Passing makes Chicago's Kane a double threat

by Brian Hedger

Patrick Kane did it again Friday night at United Center.

The Chicago Blackhawks star forward brought the crowd to its feet

late in the third period of a 5-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference Quarterfinals series, reprising a role made famous by basketball's Magic Johnson, the play-making star of the Los Angeles Lakers during the height of their "Showtime" era.

He drew almost the entire Wild defense to the slot, looking for a shot, but switched plans after a stick lift denied it. Kane then calmly dangled the puck on his stick, twirled around in the slot and dished it off to Patrick Sharp, wide open in the left circle for an easy tap-in goal.

"Showtime!" Kane screamed into the wireless mic he was wearing. "Showtime! That's hockey, baby!"

It's safe to say that Kane has embraced his ability to create goals for others, as well as score them on his own.

"He loves making that pass," Sharp said, after picking up his second goal of the game. "The puck was on his forehand, so I thought he was maybe coming back on his backhand. Once he didn't shoot it right away, I knew he was looking to make a pass … and he's found me on that back side a few times over the past few years, so credit to him for making a great pass."

That little bit of magic put the Blackhawks up 4-1 and essentially sealed the game, giving Chicago a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 on Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS)

The highlight-reel pass -- as much as the Sports Center-worth shot -- have become an expected part of Kane's game, especially this season. He's a point guard playing hockey, a drive-and-dish magician with a repertoire of moves to make just about any player not named "Crosby" jealous – and maybe even that guy.

Kane has picked up primary assists the conventional way, by feeding fairly straightforward passes in the zone. He's taken the "spin-o-rama" move that Blackhawks legend Denis Savard made famous as a goal-scoring maneuver and perfected it as an option weapon -- shoot or pass. On the rush, at top speed, Kane's even threaded the more than occasional head-shaking pass between the legs of a defenseman right onto the tape of a teammate coming down the wing.

Even his teammates have to chuckle sometimes at all the stuff Kane can do with a puck.

"I've never seen a guy his size just be able to stickhandle around a defensemen [for] as close as he can get to them," veteran forward Jamal Mayers told earlier this season. "It's different for a guy who has a long stick or a big guy, because you can get away from them. He's literally so close to them and they still can't get it. That's pretty cool."

Asked if Kane is the most creative player with which he has played, Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell just laughed.

"Uh, yeah," he said. "I haven't played with too many skill guys like him. He's got the hands he could stickhandle his way out of a phone booth [with] … he pulls things that I can only dream about in games. It's fun to watch."

Not as fun to imitate, however.

"I try to do [Kane's moves] in practice, but it doesn't work out usually," he said. "Embarrass myself, so I just keep it out of my game."

Believe it or not, the slick passing game wasn't always in Kane's bag of tricks. In fact, as a star youth player, he barely passed at all.

"Growing up, until I was probably 11 or 12 years old, I was the player who would just take it down the ice and try to score himself all the time," Kane said, smiling. "I finally ran into a coach that said, 'You're going to have to pass the puck or you're going to sit on the bench.'"

Not long afterward, Kane either forgot about the edict -- or wanted to test the mettle of the man behind the bench.

"I remember I went down the full length of the ice, scored a goal and sat on the bench for the rest of the period," Kane said. "I think, from that moment on, I just tried to improve my vision and my passing ability. That's probably where it came from, plus a lot of practice."

What he discovered was that dishing out ridiculous passes -- especially when they wind up in the net as goals -- was just as fun as scoring them himself.

"It's a good feeling," Kane said, when asked after Game 2 about his most recent highlight dish to Sharp. "Sometimes you set up a guy for a play like that … and it's a better feeling than scoring a goal."

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