BOSTON — Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has been the best player in the NHL this season.
He leads the league in scoring with 88 points in 65 games, 17 points ahead of second-place Jamie Benn. He ranks second in goals with 37, second in assists with 51 and first in even-strength points with 47.
Kane is the only player on pace to tally 100 points this season, and he’s already passed Benn’s Art Ross Trophy-winning total of 87 points from last season.
The 26-year-old right winger scored a goal and added two assists in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, and his next opponent will be a somewhat familiar foe, the Boston Bruins, whom he beat in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final en route to a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
“Well, he?s one of those guys that you?ve got to keep an eye on all the time,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said before Thursday’s matchup at TD Garden.
“You know, he?s got that knack to kind of disappear and you lose sight of him, and the first thing you know, he appears in a real good scoring area. When he does have the puck, he?s got great vision, he makes plays, he makes things happen, so real exceptional player for this league — probably one of the better ones, if not the best one right now.
“Again, you know, I think it?s really about paying attention to where he is on the ice. You hear teams and players and coaches say take his time and space away, and you?ve got to do that, but you?ve also got to have awareness of who?s around him, because he?ll make things happen all the time.”
Kane has been the driving force behind the league’s most potent line. The Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane trio has scored 111 points together, 19 more than the next-highest scoring line. Panarin is the likely Calder Trophy winner as the league’s top rookie. He leads all first-year players with 59 points in 63 games.
This line also has driven puck possession at a high rate with a 54.87 Corsi percentage during 5-on-5 play. As you might expect when a line spends that much time on the attack, Chicago has a .951 save percentage with Panarin-Anisimov-Kane on the ice.
The Bruins likely will deploy the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Lee Stempniak line, in addition to No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara, to combat the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane trio. The Bergeron line shut down the Calgary Flames’ red-hot duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on Tuesday night, limiting them to zero points and a combined three shots on goal.
Boston will need a similar defensive performance to emerge from Thursday’s game with a win.
Thumbnail photo via Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports Images