Blackhawks Game 6 hero? Look no further than Keith
It was supposed to be Jonathan Toews who spearheaded the Blackhawks to a big win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night, but Duncan Keith did the honors instead.
Without scoring a goal, Keith took over the game in the second period at the packed United Center with assists on 3 goals that broke open a scoreless battle that ended with the Hawks winning 5-2 to even the series at three games apiece.
Keith assisted on goals by Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane that put the Hawks up 3-0 and paved the way to victory.
"It's incredible," said Saad, who scored the game's first goal at 8:23 of the second period on a breakaway that started with a stretch pass from Keith to Kane. "It's something that doesn't shock me anymore, because I've been around a few years, but it's just something we expect and know he's going to bring to the table. The minutes he logs and the way he makes plays, he's an incredible player."
Keith, who leads the NHL in ice time during the playoffs, logged another 28:35 to lead all players in the game and finished with a plus-3 rating. He also blocked four shots for good measure and did some great work defensively in the third, when the Hawks clung to a 3-2 lead.
"He was unbelievable tonight, unbelievable in the second period," said Kane, who finished with a goal and assist. "(He) made some great plays, great passes, and not only was he good offensively, he led the way defensively too. (It's) nothing we're not used to seeing from him. He's a great player, a great two-way player. He wants to be involved in the offense. He wants to be up in the play a lot and you saw that tonight."
Keith is now tied with Jonathan Toews for second on the team in points during the postseason with 16 each, one behind Kane. His two goals and 14 assists rank Keith as the leader in points among the league's defensemen and he's put his name solidly into consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoffs MVP should the Blackhawks advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
The talk all series from the bigger Ducks was how all the hits they've piled up against the Hawks' top four defensemen would wear them down, but the plan hasn't worked on Keith. Anaheim's Ryan Kesler was quoted earlier this week as saying no human could withstand that kind of physical punishment, but Keith is starting to look at least super human.
"He's kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and conditioning level," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think the more he plays, the more efficient (he gets), the more he gets going. (It's) just certain guys, genetically, aerobically, anaerobically, they can sustain it. He keeps doing it."
It might be something he's born with, but it's also cultivated by a relentless effort to stay in shape off the ice.
"I've always taken pride in working out and training," Keith said. "When I was younger, I was never a big guy. I'm still not the biggest guy. It's a way to try and maybe even the playing field in some ways. I'm a little smaller, so I try to use everything I can to my advantage."