Do everyone in Chicago a favor and SHOOT THE PUCK!
Ok, so maybe that isn’t the best way to beg a superstar to do his job, but a very simple reality at the United Center right now is that the Blackhawks superstar isn’t putting the puck on net enough.
Through the first 15 games this year (of which Kane has been active for 14), he has 12 points on four goals and eight assists. Because of the early season explosions of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, his scoring drought was able to hide for the first four weeks, but in the last week it’s become glaring that Kane needs to pick up the slack for injured teammates.
And the recipe is pretty simple for Kane: shoot it!
Between the 2008-09 and 2009-10 regular seasons, Kane scored 158 points in 162 regular season games and averaged 3.2 shots per game (nearly identical totals/averages for the two seasons). His shooting rate increased to 3.4 shots per game in the playoffs this spring.
This year, however, Kane is only averaging 2.4 shots per game, his lowest average since he was a rookie three years ago.
Wednesday night’s loss may have been the most obvious need for Kane to factor into the scoring. He was on the ice for 21:14 and only attempted two shots, one of which made it to the net. In a game that the Blackhawks, on paper, should have easily won even if Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur played the entire game, Kane failed to impact the game and the Blackhawks lost 5-3.
By contrast, Patrick Sharp has put a team-leading 62 shots on goal, 23 more than Duncan Keith’s runner-up total or 39. Sharp, of course, is scoring at an elite rate to start the season.
Perhaps the most telling perspective that the stats sheet gives us for Kane’s shot total is that he trails Jack Skille by two shots. Skille is (finally) playing his first NHL season, and has failed to put the puck in the net yet, but he’s throwing the rubber on net as much as he can. Both Kane and Skille have played in 14 games, but Skille has eclipsed Kane’s shots total despite playing nine fewer minutes per night on average.
It isn’t that we’re saying Kane and Skille are comparable players; clearly the skill level is a different universe. Throughout his career, Kane has scored on roughly 11 percent of his shots on goal. That number is irrelevant, though, if the puck isn’t getting on net. In three of the four games since Marian Hossa left the lineup, Kane has accounted for just 7 total shots on goal. At a time when the team needs him to be shooting more and impacting the game more, Kane has crept back into the background and allowed players like Viktor Stalberg and Jake Dowell to hang out with him on the team’s leaderboard. Stalberg has matched Kane’s four goals so far this year, and Dowell has three.
There’s a secondary reason for Kane to shoot, too.
Kane has shown throughout his career that good things happen when he gets the puck to the net. Keith is second on the team with 39 shots, which has translated into a team-high 11 assists. The same is true when Kane creates. Jonathan Toews and, for most of last year, Troy Brouwer both benefited from Kane shooting the puck last year; rebounds off a hard Kane shot are easy pickings for a skater with above-average hands.
For the Blackhawks to get their offense working, they need every shift from Kane to be aggressive and attacking. He’s too good to continue skating backwards into the zone with his eyes looking for a trailer. The Hawks need a spark, and it should come from 88.