Patrick Kane has always believed he could win the NHL scoring title someday.
Maybe this is the year.
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With points in 19 of the last 20 games, including 10 multi-point efforts, Kane has 42 points and trails Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby by 1 in the chase for the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the player who leads the league in scoring.
"He's 1 behind (Crosby), but there's a lot of hockey left and there's some good players out there," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Kane chipped in 2 more assists in Wednesday's 7-2 rout of Philadelphia. "But he's really had a nice stretch of games here and been very productive. He's a threat every time he touches it. He's up there for the right reasons, so who knows?"
Kane is playing the best hockey of his career, which says a lot for a guy who at age 25 has already won two Stanley Cups, the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and the 2008 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Kane was also the Hawk who scored the Cup-winning goal in overtime in Game 6 of the 2010 Final against the Flyers when he slipped the puck under Michael Leighton's pad.
There isn't a more skilled player in the NHL than Kane. That video that went viral in the preseason of him dangling with all those pucks was real.
As impressive as Kane's trophy case is already, the Art Ross Trophy would be a welcome addition. So would the Hart Trophy, which goes to the league's most valuable player.
Can Kane win the MVP vote from hockey writers?
"Yes, without hesitation, absolutely, positively," said Hawks and NBC television analyst Eddie Olczyk. "He's one of the best players in the league at this particular stage. Look at the body of work from him and the impact on the team and the team's success from the start of the season until now."
Olczyk also believes defenseman Duncan Keith is having a special season, but he ranks him just behind Kane in his impact on the Hawks.
"I think Duncs' impact on this team with the defensive corps, obviously, is there," Olczyk said. "To say one guy has been better than the other, that's difficult to say.
"But when you look at the impact of what Kaner has done and how successful the team has been ... I think it's a no-brainer.
"I don't think there's any doubt right now that Kaner can be MVP. He's a finalist right now for sure, 110 percent."
The biggest improvement Olczyk sees in Kane's game has been his attention to playing better in his own end.
"I don't think there's any doubt the commitment, and what's been fun to watch and evolve, is his effort away from the puck," Olczyk said. "That's really where he has taken his game to another level. I think the commitment to playing without the puck, he has realized now that gets him the puck a lot quicker."
Olczyk believes the chance to win the scoring title motivates Kane.
"I would be disappointed if there wasn't that motivation," Olczyk said. "This team plays a way that will certainly feed into a guy that can and loves to generate points and put big-time numbers on the board. He certainly has learned a lot the last couple years of what it takes. He has a role and his role is to put points on the board."
Quenneville is running out of praise for Kane whenever he is asked about his star right wing.
"His patience with the puck has always been a strength of his, but it seems like there's even an added patience with it," Quenneville said. "It's been fun to watch him."
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