Patrick Kane’s preseason move to center from his left wing spot raised defensive questions, but it has allowed him to play with Marian Hossa. Thus far, the two compliment each other perfectly and have been nothing short of electrifying to watch.
Before this season, Patrick Kane was moved to the center position from the wing, and the move was met with a fair amount and skepticism. Many questioned his ability to shoulder the increased defensive responsibility that comes with a move to the middle (insert ‘responsibility was never Kaner’s thing’ joke here). Clearly, Kane has the skating ability to play at center, but he is a small guy (for an NHLer, at least), has never played professionally at the center position, and was never considered a particularly good defensive winger. The skepticism was not without reason.
Thus far, worries have proven to be unnecessary, though. Not only is Kane among the top 10 scorers in the NHL, he is a plus 8, which is a deeply flawed statistic, but does vaguely suggest that his defense hasn’t been quite as bad as some had feared. More definitivelythough, and more importantly, moving to the center position has allowed Kane to play with Marian Hossa on his wing, and create what can only described as a lethal highlight machine.
The combination of Hossa and Kane has clicked in terms of effectiveness, sure. Like I said, Kane is in the top 10 in scoring. Hossa is at a point per game, a scoring pace he hasn’t touched since his 100 point season in 2006-2007. More relevantly to my personal entertainment, though (and at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?) Hossa and Kane are nothing short of electrifying together. I recently described them to a few friends in a mass text as ‘playing NHL 12 out there.’
It seems like every night, they have been making the same play. One gets the puck, makes a guy or two miss, takes ice, dishes to the other, who hammers a one timer for a goal. As goals go, those are pretty ones.
The guys just seem to have Sedin-like chemistry out there, where they know where the other is going to be, or else where the other will find them, at all times. On top of that, Hossa and Kane have skill sets that complement each other perfectly.
Kane is the burner. He is the quick guy who is going to move around everyone like they are moving in slow motion. He has put up huge numbers at every level because of his ability to make plays faster than anyone else on the ice. It is the classic ‘little guy’ game. He can’t go through you, but it doesn’t matter because he is more than fast enough to go around you. It isn’t just his feet, either. Kane has soft and quick hands to match. On top of all that, there is Kane’s exceptional shooting ability. The guy can get off a rocket as fast as anyone this side of Kovalchuk or Ovechkin. All of that combines to make him one of the more electrifying players in the league to begin with.
Hossa’s game works beautifully with Kaner’s. Hossa doesn’t have Kane’s shiftiness. In fact, the word that comes to mind when I think of the Hos is smooth. It is the opposite of the jerky, unpredictable style that Kane plays. Hossa is hardly slow, in fact he is probably among the better skaters in the league, but he doesn’t fly around people. He slows the play down (which paradoxically, requires top end speed. In order to slow the game speed down, a player needs the ability to break away, or at least the threat to do so. If the defense doesn’t respect the player’s speed, and he tries to slow the game down, he will just be taken off of the puck), and protects the puck exceptionally well.
If you watch him play, particularly in person, you can’t help but be struck by just how much Marian Hossa controls the puck. This is thanks in large part to his puck control skills, but also owes in large part to a skill that all top end scorers have, which is that he plays exceptionally well without the puck. Specifically, Hossa is exceptionally good at finding a soft spot in the defense and sliding into a passing lane so that he can get the puck.
This is rather convenient for the Chicago Blackhawks, since Patrick Kane happens to be pretty damn good at putting himself in a position where he can make that pass, and is more than capable of actually making it.
The two of them are special on their own, and even more special together. There are plenty of duos (even a few trios) of guys who are worth the price of admission, or can cause you to stop when flipping through center ice. There is Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom in Washington. There is Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay. There is Crosby and Malkin (there will be, anyways) in Pittsburgh. There is Gaborik and whoever happens to be playing with Gaborik in New York. There is Henrik Sedin and Daniel…something, his last name escapes me (oh, that’s right, Sedin) in Vancouver. All of those combos fill up the highlight reels, but right now, for my money, no one is quite as effective at creating art on ice as 88 and 81 in Chicago.
But I have rambled on for long enough, see the magic that has been created by the Hossa-Kane duo already this season for yourself.
This is the play that has gotten the most play, and for obvious reasons. Kane gets the attention here because, you know, he did a super flashy move that no one has done regularly since Denis Savard, and he deserves the praise. It is an unholy pass. Hossa’s effort shouldn’t be overshadowed either, though. He starts the play, then buys the perfect amout of time to jump into a passing lane just as Kane is looking to fire the puck off of his backhand. A step to soon and he leaves the scoring area, or else has to stop and gets picked up by a defender, a step to slow and he doesn’t create the line behind the defenseman. You just can’t teach that sort of timing.
The spin-o-rama got the most attention, but this was my favorite Kane-Hossa connection so far this year. The one timer that Kane takes on this play is just…I don’t know. I’m not a good enough writer to describe how hard it is to do that. Suffice to say that unless you know Brett Hull, or apparently Patrick Kane, you don’t know anyone who could do that. To even get a stick on a pass that hard (and a little behind him) is nuts, but Kane absolutely hammers it top corner and Ondrej Pavelec doesn’t have a prayer.
Just another example of Hossa finding the dead spot off of a rush. Wired pass, rocket oneT. Standard. It isn’t even fair.
Anyways, I could go on, but you get the idea. That is just a sampling of the Kane to Hossa magic that has been taking place. (It is worth noting, before I wrap up, that their third liney, Patrick Sharpe is also an excellent player who has a lot to do with the space that 88 and 81 have to work with) There are videos all over YouTube of electrifying goals, as well as stuff like this (which Justin Bourne originally wrote about, and was so nasty that I forgot it wasn’t even a goal when I was looking for it). It is a highlight reel that is sure to (be made up almost entirely of one timers and…) grow as the year goes along. Kane and Hossa are incredible players who work exceptionally well together, and the hockey world is a better place for their playing together.