Only Patrick Kane knew for sure. As his fellow Chicago Blackhawks played on or maintained game faces at the bench, he curled around the net and partied by himself. First, he broke into a smile. Then he tossed his gloves skyward, and there went the stick too. He raced across the rink, hands raised. He knew. Soon, they all knew.
On that night -- June 9, 2010 -- Kane scored at 4:06 of overtime to beat the host Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in Game 6 of the Final and clinch the Stanley Cup for Chicago. It ended a 49-year wait for the Blackhawks, so what was a few more anxious moments?
Video: Patrick Kane first American to win Art Ross Trophy
"After I shot the puck, I just continued going," Kane said of his drive from deep on the left against goaltender Michael Leighton. "I didn't see anything at first, but then I saw the puck behind him, in the far corner of the cage, stuck in the netting. It was over. What a thrill. What a relief."
After being chosen No. 1 by the Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Draft, Kane brought more than relief to this Original Six member that had endured many frigid winters. Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita revived hockey in Chicago during the late 1950s, and Kane and Jonathan Toews formed a gifted partnership that forged a modern dynasty.
Kane and the Blackhawks also won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015, and he only got better as Chicago exerted its dominance. The Calder Trophy winner in 2008 as the League's top rookie, Kane has complemented his three championship rings with individual honors. Kane won the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP, having contributed 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) during the 23-game playoff run.
Then, in 2016, Kane had a hat trick of sorts when it came to season-end awards. With 106 points (46 goals, 60 assists), the Buffalo-born Kane became the first United States-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leader. In games when he scored at least one point, the Blackhawks were a dazzling 45-12-7. He crafted a particularly remarkable binge by earning at least one point in 26 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NHL since Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques had a point in 30 straight in 1992-93.
Beginning with the sixth game of the season, on Oct. 17, 2015, Kane was not kept off the scoresheet until Dec. 15. He had 16 goals and 24 assists in those 26 games and shattered Hull's Blackhawks-record point streak (21 games, set in 1971-72). Kane was the sixth Blackhawks player to win the Ross and first since Mikita won his fourth in 1968.
Kane's prolific output begat a landslide in balloting for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player. He drew 121 of 150 first-place votes in becoming the fifth Blackhawks player to receive the honor, joining Max Bentley (1946), Al Rollins (1954), Hull (1965, '66) and Mikita (1967, '68.) Kane's romp materialized despite estimable competition: Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Sidney Crosby of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's humbling even to be nominated," Kane said. "Jamie Benn, how can you argue against him? He won the Ross last year and had another great season. Crosby, what he did toward the end of the season just to get his team in a position to win the Cup was terrific. He told our agent, Pat Brisson, that he would have been surprised if I hadn't won it. Which was nice."
Kane's third honor in June 2016 was the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the League's most outstanding player as determined by the NHL Players' Association. That represented direct peer praise from contemporaries who had to deal with this shifty right wing who shoots left and has great hands. Hull said he's seen only a couple of players who could skate with such speed while controlling the puck to an extent that "it's like Patrick owns it."
On his memorable day, Kane was effusive in saluting his customary linemates -- Russians Artemi Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy in 2016, and center Artem Anisimov.
"Somebody came up with the number of linemates I've had in Chicago as 26," Kane said. "I don't know if that's accurate. Doesn't really matter. I've played with a lot of guys through the years, which is fine. But playing almost all the time with the same two, I never really had that before. The 'Bread Man' (Panarin) obviously had a huge input on my game. We communicate without speaking the same language. I don't know how to explain it. Anisimov, let's face it, he basically does a lot of the dirty work. To be with them pretty much game in and game out, on the same line in the power play, that was a big plus.
"You know where to find each other. It really worked for me and the two Russians. I always thought I kind played like a Russian, anyway," he said with a laugh. "You know, trying to create, make plays, pass the puck for an opening. I've always taken pride not just in points, but creating. Then there's Tazer (Toews). Obviously, when he's out there, he attracts a lot of attention. So maybe we wound up with favorable matchups. Like going against the other team's second checking line."
Before the 2007 draft, Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon met with Toews, who had been drafted the previous spring. Toews had played against Kane on the amateur level and fully endorsed Tallon's notion that this sprightly prodigy who scored 62 goals with 83 assists in 58 games with London of the Ontario Hockey League was a future star.
Kane never spent a day in the minor leagues, and had 21 goals and 51 assists for the resurgent Blackhawks in 2007-08, their first winning season since 2001-02. Almost instantly, he exhibited a sixth sense; he envisions a play before it materializes, as if he's already seen it on film. When Kane lures one or two checkers, he sends a pass through a keyhole to a teammate who might be crowded or open.
When Kane decides to shoot, uncanny highlights result. He has scored by picking the tiniest corner of the net from any angle. He has scored while on horizontal hold or after swiveling on his spin-o-rama, turning completely around toward the cage, then flipping a backhand beyond a befuddled goalie. Then there are those forays when he hones in on the blue paint and appears to be too close to finish, only to lift the puck vertically, as if it is propelled by helium or a string from above, to the roof of the net.
Through 2015-16, Kane's ninth season, he already was tied with Toews for 10th on the Blackhawks goals list with 251. Kane also was sixth in points (663) and assists (412). In 123 playoff games, Kane had 121 points, including 11 game-winning goals, the most in Blackhawks history. All this before his 28th birthday.
"Consistency is what I'm probably most proud of," Kane said. "I've had some slumps, but for the most part I've been able to figure things out. It's been quite a ride. I've played my whole career and I hope to play the rest of my career in Chicago. As a rookie, coming from my home in Buffalo, I was a little overwhelmed. The size of the city, the traffic. But it's the best possible place to play hockey. The fans are unbelievable, the organization is first class, and even with the players we've had to let go of because of the salary cap, we've had a nice run. Three Stanley Cups, and it's not over yet."
Video: 2010 Cup Final, Gm6: Hawks end 49-year Cup drought
And it began with that momentous goal in Philadelphia, where Brian Campbell cradled the puck just inside his blue line.
"I could have shot it, maybe should have," Campbell said. "But instead I just passed it to Kaner off the half wall, then let him do his magic. I pretty much stayed there, prepared to play more defense.
"Next thing I know, there's Patrick coming around their net and he's throwing stuff up in the air. I didn't know what was going on. I'm thinking, 'What's this guy doing? He's jumping all over the ice and he didn't even score. This game isn't over.'"
But it was, and Patrick Kane knew it first.
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