CHICAGO – Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane admittedly took a lot of dumb penalties early in his career.
It took the better part of six seasons, but those penalties he took to put his team down a man have all but stopped occurring.
On Thursday, Kane was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player that displays the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.
“Anytime you’re up for an award it’s exciting,” Kane said Thursday at the United Center in Chicago. “I thought maybe I had a chance at this one. I think it kind of speaks volumes of where my game has gone since my rookie season. I used to take a lot of penalties that were kind of unnecessary. I kind of got that out of my game a little bit. I’m definitely happy about it. It’s an honor for sure.”
Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis are the other two finalists.
“I thought he really progressed in his game this year,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville sad. “Offensively he had the puck more than he ever did. I thought he had more speed, more pace to his game. He seemed to be more aware positionally and technically. Our team game was complemented by his positioning, as well. I think that’s why he seemed to have the puck more, but I think attention to both sides.
“He definitely improved his play in his own end,” Quenneville added. “But I thought his overall
game was to a new level this year. I thought the consistency of it made it a real good year for him.”
In Quenneville’s first season with Chicago he even benched Kane after drawing a penalty.
“That stretch of the season we had a tendency to be taking too many penalties, it was a reoccurring theme,” Quenneville recalled. “We talked going into the game about addressing it, so we did it. But I think every player grows and every player probably has a stretch where they might miss shifts and maybe not (have) their best game, but I think that’s all part of it. But I thought each and every year Kaner’s gotten better as a player in all aspects of his game. He’s gotten stronger and he’s gotten better and he’s growing up as well. So, it’s a real nice progression in his career.”
In 47 games this season, while averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time, Kane totaled eight penalty minutes. That was the fewest among the top 20 point-producers in the league.
“You never want to take unnecessary penalties,” Kane said. “I think a couple of mine this season, I know one for sure was shooting it out of the rink so that was unnecessary. It’s an award that’s definitely a great honor. It has a different view now from players, it’s skill and sportsmanship put together. It’s an award you want to be up for and I’m excited about it.”
In 82 games last year, Kane amassed 40 minutes in penalties. His rookie year he had a career-high 52 minutes in penalties.
Along with staying out of the box, Kane led the team with 55 points this season and finished tied for first in goals with 23. He also recorded a plus-11 rating, the second-best plus/minus in his six-year career.
However, Kane has yet to score this postseason and has just one goal over his last 19 playoff games.
“It’s always nice to contribute and score goals,” Kane said. “I’m going to be looking to do that. But like I’ve said many times before you want to make the right play when you’re on the ice, try and just play the game and play my game. If the pass is there I’m going to make the pass, if it’s a shot then I’m going to shoot. I just want to try and make the right play.”
Kane does have six assists in this year’s playoffs, including one that led to the game-winning goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win over Detroit in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series, Wednesday night.
His line also combined to outshoot the Wings 16-4 when they were on the ice.
“I think that’s the thing with our team, if one or two guys aren’t scoring other guys are stepping up,” Kane said. “That’s how it’s been all year, another guy keeps stepping up every night and produces somehow. A guy that makes a big play, blocks a shot, or gets a big goal like (Marcus) Kruger last night, whoever it may be that’s the reason we’ve been so successful.”
In Kane’s six seasons, he has yet to get into a fight. Unlike four-time award winner Pavel Datsyuk, who fought Anaheim’s Corey Perry in 2010.
“There’s been a few times where I’ve wanted to, but it hasn’t really happened,” Kane said. “I thought it was going to happen against Anaheim with (Saku) Koviu there at the end of the game. It’s something you don’t think about when you’re getting ready for a game. If it happens it happens.”