Even when the Blackhawks lose, there's a good chance Patrick Kane will be the best player on the ice.
That was the case on Sunday when Kane scored twice and had an assist in the Hawks' 6-5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center.
Kane now has 14 goals and 30 points to lead the Hawks in both categories. He has points in 20 of the Hawks' 26 games.
"Kaner made some nice plays out there and scored some nice goals," teammate Duncan Keith said after Sunday's loss. "We know he can put the puck in the net, he's that type of player. He had a nice night, but unfortunately we couldn't get there with him."
Kane seemingly has had the puck all season, backing up his wishes to take his game to the next level with his play. He is more focused than he has ever been, more mature, and is having more fun playing the game he loves.
"I think I play better when I play creative, have the puck on my stick and am trying things," Kane said. "For me, I've got to be creative to play to my strengths, which are is kind of skill and playing with speed and trying some things.
"For me, I have to play that way and have fun. I seem to play better when I have a smile on my face."
This season Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has seen a different Kane, now in his sixth season in the league.
"He loves the puck and this year he seems to have it a lot," Quenneville said. "He's special. We don't want to take away his creativity."
Kane has shown a willingness to chip the puck in when the situation calls for it.
"He's still willing to chip a few pucks in and unload it and make direct plays if he has to, but I think he's respectful of the score and time on the clock as well," Quenneville said. "I like that fact he wants the puck because when he gets it, it usually turns into good things.
"He's had the puck a lot more this year than he ever has, and he's quicker. He's shooting the puck well, and when he's on the ice he's a threat. I think he has improved defensively as well. His overall game, he's taken it to a different level."
Kane is plus-9 and is one of the league leaders in takeaways with 25. Jonathan Toews leads the team with 34 while Marian Hossa, who was credited with 7 against the Oilers, has 31.
"I've gotten better at it as time has gone by watching Johnny and Hossa, or (Pavel) Datsyuk around the league, (Evgeni) Malkin," said Kane. "It's part of the game that can turn into offense. With the transition game we have on our team, with our speed, if we can get those quick takeaways it's only going to help our offense.
"It's something guys pride themselves on. It's a lot of different things: timing when you're going to do it, trying to hide and then get there real quick and take the puck away. There lot of different ways, you can backcheck and the defense can step up and give you that time and space to take the puck away."
Kane is part of the Hawks' core that is trying to recapture the feeling from 2010 when they won the Stanley Cup.
"The core players have gotten better, but if you look back to the year we won the Cup we had a lot of youth on our team and that made it more fun around the dressing room," Kane said. "You see guys, whether they're scoring goals and celebrating, fighting when they're small guys like (Andrew) Shaw, or coming in and playing well on the first line like Brandon Saad. The guys that have come up since the middle of last year have given us a boost."
• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.