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'A' salute by Savard to top rookie Kane

Please gather up your belongings as you exit the thrill ride Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks embarked on this season.

Fittingly, Kane scored the final goal of the season for the Hawks during their 4-1 loss to the Red Wings on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. Following the selection of Kane with the first overall pick in the entry draft in June, the Hawks underwent a major makeover that spanned from the team on the ice to the front office, from marketing to broadcasting.

"Coming in it was a little nerve-wracking," said Kane, who scored his 21st goal of the season to pick up his NHL rookie-leading 72nd point. "I didn't really know what to expect, but as the season went on the guys really helped me adjust to the league. ... For an 18- or 19-year-old rookie—overall it was a good year."

So good, Hawks coach Denis Savard believes Kane should win the Calder Trophy, given to the league's top rookie. Savard made his point by giving Kane an "A" on his jersey as alternate captain for the first time this season.

"It was a message: Rookie of the year," said Savard, knowing his team was playing on national television. "He's had a tremendous year. Hopefully he gets that because he deserves it."

Kane, who ended Dominik Hasek's shutout bid Sunday with 2 minutes 20 seconds remaining, said Savard's decision surprised him.

"It was unexpected," Kane said. "When I came into the rink, Kevyn Adams said, 'Kaner, your jersey is a little heavier today.' I came in and had the 'A' on my jersey.

"It's nice to be recognized."

Kane and fellow rookie Jonathan Toews distinguished themselves as cornerstones for the future of a team that finished with 88 points, three back of the Western Conference playoffs and 17 more than last season.

"They're special," Savard said. "They're going to take this team a long way for a long time."

Toews finished with 54 points (24 goals and 30 assists) despite missing 18 games to injury.

"A lot of things come around you don't expect," Toews said. "Regardless what level you're playing at, there's always a learning curve. Earlier on it was really exciting playing in a lot of new buildings and against new teams. ... We know that we're going to be a better team next year, but we're not going to take anything for granted."

Despite the loss, the Hawks went 5-3 this season vs. the NHL's best team , which got two goals from Nicklas Lidstrom and one each from Jiri Hudler and Mark Hartigan.

"We can be proud of a lot of things," Toews said.

"We have to let this sink in and let it sting us a little bit and let it hurt that we're not still playing. We can look back on some of the positive things we did this year but most of all we have to use our situation right now as motivation."

ckuc@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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