Blackhawks

'SuperKane' steals the show at ASG Skills Competition

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'SuperKane' steals the show at ASG Skills Competition

OTTAWA, Ontario The NHL All-Star skills competition is all about the show. Its pomp and circumstance, talent with the right touch of bravado.

And Patrick Kane played it beautifully to win the contest he loves the most.

Kane donned the Superman cape and Clark Kent glasses for his fall-down-and-still-score shot, which won him the Breakaway challenge at the skills competition on Saturday night. Kanes getup and goal with an assist to Marian Hossa, who helped him with the cape -- earned him 47 percent of the fan vote.

I just like doing stuff that gets the fans going. They like it, said Kane, who added he was inspired by Dwight Howards Superman during the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk contest. I didnt care about scoring. It was just about the whole presentation.

The idea was one thing. Getting the props was another Blackhawks public relations Brandon Faber and Kanes parents went to get the cape and glasses earlier today. Kane, however, didnt want to take it too far.

We had other ideas for sparklers on my skates, Kane said. But I wasnt going to try and burn myself on the ice out there.

Hossa said Kane talked to him about his Superman idea on the bus heading to Scotiabank Place earlier today.

When he told me about it, I thought, That sounds pretty cool, Hossa said. Its not easy to do but I think he did it extremely well.

The breakaway challenge was one of the most entertaining events of the evening: Kane shot an exploding puck on his third attempt, Corey Perry scored a goal with a mini hockey stick and goaltender Carey Price turned his back on Philadelphias Sean Coutrier and still stopped him.

Kanes theatrics stole the show on Saturday. He didnt have much time to plan, finding out on Friday afternoon that he was in the breakaway event. With a little more notice, Kane said, NHL players could really dazzle in some of these contests.

It would be nice for all the players to find out a couple of weeks before so could put something really good together, he said. You get a days notice its kind of tough to think about some things. Its better to have time to put something together like that.

Hey, even Super men can benefit from a little advance notice.

Watch the video of Kane's Breakaway Challenge here:

Blackhawks 2018-19 midseason grades: Forwards

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks 2018-19 midseason grades: Forwards

Going into the 2018-19 campaign, the Blackhawks were looking for rebound seasons from their top guys and counting on their younger ones to take that next step. It's safe to say they've done that for the most part.

After compiling a career-low 20 goals and 52 points in 74 games last season, Jonathan Toews has already surpassed his goal total with 22 and is four points away from tying his point total from a year ago through 51 games. The Blackhawks captain is on pace to set a career-high with 35 goals and 76 points.

Patrick Kane, who statistically had a down season by his standards, has 29 goals and 42 assists for 71 points in 50 games this season. For reference, he had 27 goals and 49 assists for 76 points in 82 games last year. The former Hart Trophy winner is on pace to set a career-high with 46 goals and 114 points, and he even missed a game with an illness.

Alex DeBrincat has emerged a star. He has 25 goals and 18 assists for 43 points in 51 games this season, with eight of his goals coming on the power play. He's on pace for 40 goals and 68 points, both of which would set a career-high. A year ago, he had 28 goals and 24 assists for 52 points in 82 games while averaging only 14:48 of ice time.

Heck, even Brandon Saad's numbers are quietly coming around. There are still inconsistencies in his game, but he has 15 goals and 27 points through 49 games after recording only 18 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season. He's on pace for 25 goals and 44 points.

In summary, the Blackhawks are expected to have three 35-plus goal scorers, one 25-goal scorer and a 100-plus point player this season. DeBrincat led the team with 28 goals in 2017-18 as a rookie and Kane led with 76 points. That's a big difference from where the Blackhawks were a year ago.

The problem is, the four players listed above have combined for 91 of the 135 goals from Blackhawks forwards this season, which comes out to be 67.4 percent. That means the remaining 44 goals have been scored by the other 16 forwards combined.

To be fair, Dylan Strome has accounted for nine of them in only 27 games with the Blackhawks. Over the course of an 82-game season, that comes out to be 27 goals. That'll definitely work.

After that, the secondary scoring simply hasn't been there. The scorching power play has carried the slack for the last two months and has made up for it, but it's absolutely an area the Blackhawks need to address going into next season. There needs to be a more balanced offensive attack. And that will certainly be a high priority this summer, considering they got their expected bounce-back seasons from their horses.

Grade: B-

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State of the Blackhawks going into All-Star break

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USA TODAY

State of the Blackhawks going into All-Star break

It's been a crazy first half of the 2018-19 season for the Blackhawks. There was a coaching overhaul, two trades, multiple call-ups, an injury to their star goaltender, a Winter Classic spectacle and an insane travel schedule looped into an already busy schedule with the club being tied for the second-most games played of any NHL team.

The All-Star break and nine-day hiatus from game action is coming at a great time for the Blackhawks, to say the least. And they left off on a positive note, with back-to-back home victories against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on national television and a comeback shootout win over the No. 1-ranked defense and hottest Eastern Conference team in the New York Islanders.

But in the bigger picture, the Blackhawks are still not where they want to be. Not even close.

Going into Wednesday, they mathematically have a 1.4 percent chance of make the playoffs, according to hockeyreference.com, and that's likely to drop by the end of the day with eight Western Conference teams in action before the NHL shuts down for All-Star weekend. Only two other teams have a better chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick than the Blackhawks (11.5 percent), and that's Los Angeles (13.5) and Ottawa (18.5), the latter of which is actually Colorado's pick.

"We’re going to play until we’re out of it," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "No reason to give up. We’ll do everything we can. However, my approach is still the same. We have to get better. We’re not good enough right now. We have to play better. And so that’s how we’re going to approach each day and then we add it up at the end, see where we’re at."

The reality is, the Blackhawks are closer to the earning a top pick than making the playoffs. And that's fine, especially in a retooling year. In fact, it's better than sitting just outside the playoff picture because mediocrity is the worst spot to be in — it doesn't guarantee you an immediate impact-type player in the draft if you miss out on the postseason.

But the Blackhawks have to come to grips with it. It seems like they have, although that doesn't mean they're going to lie down for the final 31 games. This is still an important stretch run to determine what you have going into the offseason.

Scouting meetings are happening this week in Chicago, an annual occurrence where the organization gets together to decide how they want to approach the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Should they be sellers? If so, how aggressive should they get without creating more holes? Trade anyone you can to clear roster spots and open up even more cap space to take a big run at this upcoming unrestricted free agent class or only pull something off if you're filling a long-term positional need elsewhere?

Right now, non-playoff and bubble teams across the NHL are asking themselves these same questions. If they're buyers, the Blackhawks will certainly be one of the teams they call to ask who's available. It's up to Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks front office to determine who is and who isn't, what the market value is for players drawing interest and whether a potential trade is something that benefits them in the long run but, at the same time, can make an impact as early as next season.

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