Philly can't keep Kane down
A reconfigured line gave Patrick Kane the boost needed to break out in the Cup finals
CHICAGO -- Dressed in a natty-grey suit that oh-so complemented his Joe Dirt 'do, Patrick Kane also carried a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones into the postgame interview room, the kind of jumbo world-blockers that produce more noise than 22,000 hockey-mad fans at the United Center.
In Game 5 of a wildly entertaining Stanley Cup finals, it was Kane's play that was music to his teammates' ears. Rap impresario Questlove might be Philadelphia's favorite music man, but Kane was providing the right beats Sunday night.
The Blackhawks' 7-4 win put them a game away from winning the Stanley Cup -- think about that for the next two days -- and it was Kane, the jazzy improviser, who hit the right notes.
He scored the Blackhawks' fourth goal as he and Andrew Ladd all but embarrassed Hawks' bogeyman Chris Pronger and assisted on their sixth. Basically, he played like himself, a freewheeling scoring machine who racked up 88 points this season, the most by any American.
It was only Kane's second goal of this series, but unlike the first, this time it was in a win. Kane stepped up like he did late in the Olympics.
"Kaner has been great for us all year and that's why he's one of the most special players in the world," winger Kris Versteeg said. "He made some world-class plays today. Man, what else can you say about that guy?"
"I think it didn't really matter who played with who tonight, to be honest with you," Kane said. "I think everyone just had the energy, and we had to make sure we wanted to win."
Kane has 25 points in the playoffs, third to Toews' 28 and Flyers center Danny Briere's 27, making him a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He wasn't as openly enthused with his play as everyone else.
"To be honest with you, I didn't think I played great," he said. "Sometimes you get the puck and you make some plays and just helps out the overall team. It was nice to bounce back from last game."
Was Kane just being humble? Did someone just use Kane and humble in the same sentence? And what did he think he could've improved on?
"I mean, I guess overall, probably a little bit defensively," he said. "I think the third goal there I made a turnover where they ended up scoring. You always want to get yourself into the game as soon as possible and make plays. But I think in my own end I can be better."
In this situation, one game from the Cup, Kane's light self-flagellation is welcome, even if his teammates disagree. Duncan Keith, who doesn't get much time to really examine Kane's game, thought the 21-year-old was putting in a little more effort to get free.
"I think the biggest thing with him was he was competing and working hard to get back for pucks, and working hard to get pucks back," Keith said. "When you're working hard like that, good things happen."
Regardless of what he said, it was obvious Kane and his new linemates had a dynamic rapport. On Kane's goal, Ladd found Kane streaking toward Brian Boucher's right with Pronger in between them directly in front of the goal. On Sharp's goal, Kane was moving to Boucher's left and dished to Sharp trailing him.
"Great play by Kaner on the goal there," Sharp said. "I knew he was going to give it to me. I like to think we have a little bit of chemistry. Hopefully we can keep it going."
Kane yelled something after he scored and then got in Sharp's face after finding him. What did he say?
"That's for him and me to talk about," Sharp said. "He's a guy who seems to find me every time we play with each other. I think we enjoy playing with each other."
Sharp and Ladd are crafty veterans and Kane is a rare talent. So it wasn't hard for them to mesh together.
"I know Kaner likes to have that puck and he likes to make plays," Sharp said. "I thought Laddy did a good job using his speed and size to create space for us."
It's tough to believe the end is finally close. The regular season is long enough, but these playoffs have been almost interminable for a team expected to be in this position since that fall trip to Finland.
"I think we got two days off here to kind of get ourselves ready for the challenge," Kane said. "It's exciting. We have one more win and you have the grand prize."
For the Hawks to close out the Cup on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Kane's sound-isolating headphones will be a working metaphor, as the Hawks will need to drown out the noise around them and try to focus on the task at hand. It won't be easy, as all the expectations and dreams they've carried since childhood compete with game plans and unavoidable nerves in a very tight space.
The Chicago Blackhawks are one win away from the Stanley Cup with two games left. Can they bring the noise or will they succumb to it? Given the way the Hawks rocked Sunday, I think I know how this song ends.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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