Like most 20-year-olds, the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane is prone to oops moments—whether that's taking the occasional careless penalty or oversleeping the occasional alarm. On the morning of his spectacular Game 6 against Vancouver, the second-year winger snoozed through his 8:30 wake-up for an hour and 17 minutes. He was late for a team meeting and almost didn't make it to the morning skate, but that night Kane could not be missed, scoring his first career hat trick and lifting Chicago to its first conference finals in 14 years.
"There were chills going down my spine after the third goal," says Kane, who didn't score in a 5--2 Game 1 loss in Detroit on Sunday. "I didn't know what to do with myself."
If 21-year-old captain Jonathan Toews is the heart of the young Hawks, Kane, playing in his first postseason, gets it pumping. At 5'10" and 170 pounds he defies logic on the ice. "How can a guy that [small] go into traffic like he does, be so strong on the puck, score goals like he does, have the instincts he has?" Detroit coach Mike Babcock says. "He's an exciting, fantastic player."
Alexander Semin would agree. Last October the Washington winger, as part of his infamous dissing of Sidney Crosby, called Kane "a much more interesting player" than the Penguins' superstar. "Obviously, the comments weren't completely true," said Kane last week, "but it's amazing to have something like that said about you."
With 12 points in 12 playoff games—for the moment equal to Crosby's point-per-game average in his first postseason, 2007—Kane has certainly played like one of the league's offensive elite, exploiting defenses with his high-end speed and superior lateral movement. "He's hard to defend because you can't grab onto him," says Detroit defenseman Brett Lebda. "Sometimes you can't even hit him because he slides right by you."
The Buffalo native and 2007 No. 1 draft pick has an extra chip playing against the Wings, a team he says he has long disliked—even when he played for a Detroit-area youth club and billeted with former Red Wing Pat Verbeek and his family. "I always rooted against them," he says. "I was a big Sabres fan. If it was the Pistons, I was always cheering against them too."
Words like that add to a rivalry that has roots traditional (the Wings and the Hawks have met 14 times in the playoffs, last in 1995) and current (Hall of Fame Wings coach Scotty Bowman joined Chicago as an adviser before this season), and Kane shows little sign of being daunted. "With the puck Patrick's one of the best players in the league," says Hawks assistant G.M. Stan Bowman, Scotty's son. "He's learning to be better without the puck."
Yes, Kane, susceptible defensively, still has plenty to work on—rising on time, for instance—but all things considered, he is arriving ahead of schedule.
Now on SI.com
Get daily analysis, news and photos from both Conference finals at SI.com/bonus
BILL SMITH/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (KANE)
NET MINDED Kane's eight goals led the Blackhawks, and included a series-clinching hat trick.