Blackhawks' Kane making huge case for MVP
Like a freight train in the distance, the Patrick Kane for MVP talk started as a low hum.
A short time later, it became a distinctive rumble.
Now the horns are blaring, the house is shaking and the pundits are screaming -- Kane should be the slam-dunk Hart Trophy winner this season.
"Relative to his team, absolutely," Jonathan Toews after Kane extended his point streak to 20 games in the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to Colorado on Friday. "You see who won the Hart Trophy last year (New Jersey's Taylor Hall), and in my book there's no doubt that (Kane) should be taking home some hardware at the end of the season."
If it happens, it would be the second MVP season of Kane's career -- the other coming in 2016 when he racked up 46 goals, 60 assists, produced a 26-game point streak and led the Hawks to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
As incredible as that campaign was, Kane has somehow reached another level this season.
His overall numbers of 39 goals and 54 assists are obviously impressive, but what he has done over the last 28 games truly boggles the mind:
• He has at least 1 point in 27 of them.
• He has multiple points in 16 of them.
• He has 24 goals and 32 assists -- 2.0 points per game. That's a 164-point pace over a full season.
• When he extended his point streak against the Avs, Kane became just the seventh player to record two 20-game streaks in his career. The others are Wayne Gretzky, who had 7, and Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Adam Oates, who all did it twice.
Kane has factored into 50 percent of the Hawks' last 112 goals, and the team has surged into playoff contention by going 16-9-3.
"The way he's playing is remarkable," said alternate captain Brent Seabrook. "I don't think anybody's playing as good as him in the league right now. And I don't know if anybody's as important to their team as Kaner is to us. The way he drives our offense, they way he's playing both ends of the rink. I've been seeing him backcheck quite a bit lately, which is pretty good for us defensemen.
"He's been impressive what he's been able to do and obviously very important to our team."
Some will argue that the Hawks must make qualify for the postseason for Kane to be named MVP.
But I wholeheartedly disagree because the Hart Trophy is awarded to the "player judged most valuable to his team."
Obviously, the Hawks would be nowhere near the wild-card hunt if it wasn't for their 30-year-old superstar.
Yes, there will be plenty of support for Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, who leads the league with 100 points, but he has a slew of teammates who are big reasons the Lightning are 47-11-4.
Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau is also having a fantastic season, but four Flames have 58 or more points.
San Jose's Brent Burns leads all defensemen with 68 points and may be in the discussion, but five of his teammates already have 21 or more goals.
Of course, one should never count out Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (25G, 48A), who does far more than provide offense.
The biggest competition could come from Alex Ovechkin, who leads Washington with 44 goals. It's nearly a guarantee that the 34-21-7 Capitals would be totally out of the playoff picture without him.
Still, Ovechkin has just 28 points in the last 29 games -- a far cry from the way Kane is producing.
If Kane keeps up his 2-points-a-game pace down the stretch, he will finish with 133 points -- a number that hasn't been reached since the 1995-96 season.
"He's at times carried us on his back," said coach Jeremy Colliton. "He's probably going to find another level too. I know these guys who've been around -- we get to play in some important games now and they know what it's like and they love it."
Another level for Kane? Well, then go ahead and mail him the trophy now.
Top dogsNHL's leading scorers through Feb. 23:
Player, team G A Pts.
Nikita Kucherov, TB 30 70 100
Patrick Kane, HAWKS 39 54 93
C. McDavid, Edm. 32 53 85
J. Gaudreau, Calg. 30 49 79
Brayden Point, TB 35 43 78
M. Rantanen, Colo. 25 53 78
• Washington's Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 43. He has 70 points.
• San Jose's Brent Burns leads all defensemen with 68 points (12G, 56A).