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The Day After 73.0: Will Evander Kane’s fight reignite his offence?

Edmonton OIlers Evander Kane
Photo credit:Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
Evander Kane would be the first to admit this season hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
After a strong start to the season in which he scored 14 goals and 24 points through his first 35 games, his game has, by and large, fallen off a cliff in the most recent 36, scoring just seven goals and 15 points as his ice time dipped by a minute and a half. What was looking like a season where he would be a lock for well over 30 has seen him now hoping to hit the 25 mark with nine games left in the season.
It all came to a head a week ago when he was healthy scratched in a game against the Ottawa Senators, a night after Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl got pounded physically by the Maple Leafs will little response. He’s since put together a few stronger games where he’s more physically engaged, and he nearly scored his first goal in 20 games Monday night against the St. Louis Blues, but it got pulled off the board due to a high stick.
While many would look at that as a reason to believe he can break through and get the monkey off his back ahead of the playoffs, there’s something else that happened that could help provide a spark to his game: his second-period fight with Blues defenceman Tyler Tucker.
WATCH: Evander Kane fights Tyler Tucker
Kane has long been a player who is at his best when he’s involved in games physically, and fighting has always been a big part of his game. Look no further than earlier this season, where Kane had one assist through his first five games of the season. It was in that fifth game where he fought Winnipeg Jets defenceman Brendan Dillon, and a night later, on Oct. 24th, dropped the mitts with then-Wild forward Brandon Duhaime.
Including that game against Minnesota, his two scraps sparked a stretch during which Kane would score 11 goals and 19 points in a 16-game span — far and away his best this season. It came at a time when the Oilers needed someone to step up as the team faltered, and his goals were the most among his teammates. His point totals were second behind McDavid and tied with Draisaitl.
He was, quite simply, playing his best hockey, and that’s exactly what the Oilers need from Kane as the playoffs approach. They need him to be engaged, physical, and most importantly, to produce points.
In order to do so, Kane needs to get the puck on his stick and fire it on net. Across his 182 games in both the regular season and playoffs, in games where he’s taken three or more shots on goal, his goals per game and point-per-game rates are significantly improved, scoring nearly .4 more goals per game while taking over three more shots per game. It also helps to increase his physical production, with an increase of .29 more hits per game.
 
With an important offseason looming for the team in which financial flexibility will need to be found, it’s going to be critical for Kane to find a way to get involved in the mix down the stretch of this season. His initial playoff run with the Oilers was excellent, scoring 13 goals and 17 points in 15 games, but last year, he scored just three goals and five points in 12 games.
Dealing with injuries lingering all year that included his horrific wrist injury and a nagging problem with his ribs, it’s clear he was off his game. This year, he’s been reportedly dealing with ailments once again, but the hope is they won’t impact his game.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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