No matter how things go when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks in Game Seven of the Western Conference Final, it will be very difficult to discount the play of Duncan Keith. The Blackhawks defenceman has been impossibly good for these playoffs and is easily a contender for the post-season MVP.
“He’s kind of a freak,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville after his team’s Game Six win on Wednesday night. He’s right.
Keith logged another 29 minutes in the 5-2 contest and assisted on the first three goals for his club. He’s put up 3,055 minutes over the course of 109 games playoff games, which is 500 minutes ahead of teammate Brent Seabrook for the same time span and 600 minutes ahead of Zdeno Chara.
The point is that Duncan Keith is THE man for Chicago when it comes to the post-season. Nobody else is even really close – in the entire league. Right now, he’s averaging just under 32 minutes a game. Only Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger have played comparable minutes in comparable playoff runs.
“I think the more he plays, the more efficient, the more he gets going,” said Quenneville. “Just certain guys genetically, aerobically, anaerobically, they can sustain it. He keeps doing it.”
Not only does Keith log serious minutes, he makes tremendous plays and few mistakes.
Consider his helper on Marian Hossa’s goal in Game Six, the one that put Chicago up 2-0. Keith had the puck in the faceoff dot and faked a couple of shots before slipping a picture-perfect pass to Hossa, who snapped it into the Anaheim goal.
“He plays a good, solid game, but when we needed a goal, he makes that play to Hossa to give us the extra goal and the [2-0] lead,” Brandon Saad said. “It’s huge for us. The way he plays defensively and the minutes he logs, there’s really nothing you could say bad about him.”
Through 16 games this post-season, Keith is a plus-11. He has 14 assists and two goals for a total of 16 points, tops among defencemen and second in a tie with Jonathan Toews on the Blackhawks. Only Patrick Kane is ahead with 17 points.
Possession numbers also tell the story. With Keith on the ice, the Blackhawks have a 56.5 percent possession rating ahead of Wednesday’s contest. Without him, they fall to 48.4 percent. That may seem insignificant to some, but that’s a pretty good indicator of how valuable Keith has been when it comes to ensuring his club holds on to the puck and manages the run of play.
The Ducks are working hard at working Keith hard and they’re trying to punish him physically, but it’s had limited effect thus far. For all that can be said about Chicago’s game over the course of the series, their top defenceman has arguably been their best overall player. Or better still, Duncan Keith is a freak.