Kane was nothing short of brilliant on Thursday night.
The 34-year-old produced the primary assist on two power-play goals — including the game winner — within seven minutes of each other in the second period, then scored early in the third to effectively put the contest away.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 21, 2023
The combination of awareness, stick work, speed and skill on display was vintage Kane. It's the sort of play that wouldn't have been out of place in a highlight reel from his 2015-16 Hart Trophy campaign.
It's also the kind of brilliance the Rangers couldn't be 100 percent sure they were getting when they first acquired Kane. New York traded for the superstar while he was in the midst of a difficult season to parse, and he hasn't found much consistency since joining the team.
At the time of the trade, Kane had 45 points in 54 games, with possession metrics that were dreadful even in the context of the dismal 2022-23 Chicago Blackhawks.
The combination of his declining statistics and age were a concern, but he had scored seven goals and registered 10 points in the four games directly before the trade. He was also just one year removed from a 92-point season.
That generated a narrative that Kane had been coasting with the Blackhawks, but would reemerge as a star when he had something to play for.
If that was the Rangers' expectation, they were soon disappointed. Kane was far from disastrous for New York in the final months of the regular season, but he wasn't special either.
His 12 points in 19 games from March 2 on were tied for seventh on the team. His 45 shots were tied for fifth.
Kane's underlying metrics were also an issue. The Rangers had 17 skaters log 200-plus minutes of even-strength ice time from the winger's debut to the end of the season. Kane's xGF% of 42.88% ranked 14th.
Coming into these playoffs it was worth wondering whether Kane was an impactful offensive threat or a player whose name value outstripped his on-ice utility by a significant margin.
Two games into a promising Rangers postseason run, Kane is already quieting some of those doubts. Thursday's performance was his first three-point night in New York, featuring a goal that washed players simply don't score. He's also been a crucial cog on a power play that's 4-for-10 thus far with three assists.
Perhaps more importantly, his numbers at even strength jump off the page.
Kane's on-ice shots for percentage (55.56%) and xGF (63.84%) both rank second among all Rangers forwards. He's not just a passenger or a power-play specialist, he's been an integral part of New York's early-series dominance.
It's impossible to project Kane's postseason production from here given his season-long inconsistency and the fact the Rangers could be out of the playoff in as little as four games (though that seems awfully unlikely at the moment).
What is clear is that the ceiling for Kane's output on any given night is still there. The longtime Blackhawks star has produced a bounty of magical postseason moments on his road to three Stanley Cup victories, and he doesn't look like he's done yet.