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Duncan Keith leads from behind in Blackhawks’ Game 6 win

Duncan Keith was supposed to be a shell of himself by this point — all the minutes and all the hits and all the burdens he bears weighing him down, dragging him to the ice, slowing him down. All those overtimes were only supposed to make it worse, cranking up his average ice time to a league-leading 32 minutes.

So much for that theory.

The indefatigable — possibly inhuman — Keith burnished his Conn Smythe Trophy credentials by triggering three second-period goals and saving another in a spectacular performance to lead the Blackhawks to a 5-2 victory in Game 6.

“Games like tonight when it’s must-win, you can definitely count on him stepping up and being one of our best players, if not our best player,” Jonathan Toews said. “Seems like he never runs out of energy.”

Keith is the engine that makes the Hawks’ dynamic offense run, and that was never more evident than it was in the second period of Game 6. His stretch pass midway through the period tipped off of Patrick Kane and fell to Brandon Saad, who bolted past the Ducks defense for a 1-0 lead.

A little more than two minutes later, Keith drew Andersen out of his net with two pump-fakes, then slid a pass to Marian Hossa, who one-timed the puck into an open net for a 2-0 Hawks lead. Just 1:27 later, Keith made a tremendous save at the blue line to hold the zone, then left the puck for Kane, who danced through the offensive zone before beating Andersen five-hole again. In just 3 minutes, 45 seconds, it went from 0-0 to 3-0, with Keith essentially creating all three goals.

But perhaps Keith’s biggest play came in his own end, after Anaheim had clawed back to within 3-2. With Andrew Desjardins in the box for goalie interference, Keith swept what would have been the equalizer off the goal line to preserve the lead, and preserve the season.

Keith played 28:35, the most of any player on either team, yet still nearly four minutes below his league-leading average.

“I’ve always taken pride in working out and training,” Keith said. “I’m still not the biggest guy. It’s a way to try and maybe even the playing field in some ways.”

Joel Quenneville has made an effort in recent seasons to limit Keith’s minutes, but in the postseason, he takes him off the leash — for obvious reasons.

“He’s kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and his conditioning level,” Quenneville said. “The more he plays, the more he gets going.”

And the more he gets going, the more the Hawks get going.

“There are nights when you look at the scoresheet and you see how pivotal he can be, how much he means to our team, especially in these big games,” Toews said. “But whether he’s on that scoresheet [or not], he’s there every night. He’s making that difference no matter what. We always know that in the locker room.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus