Duncan Keith’s goal drought adds to Blackhawks’ mounting frustration
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
DETROIT — Despite some crafty puck movement below the goal line by the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen was ready for Brent Seabrook’s shot from the top of the right circle in the first period.
Andersen was in position for the quick slapper, but the low, rising shot ticked off Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov’s stick and fluttered past him for a goal.
That’s hockey. Pucks are unpredictable, and everyone gets a lucky bounce sometimes.
Well, everyone but Duncan Keith.
Keith, who has scored 108 times in his NHL career (regular season and playoffs), has zero goals this season. In fact, he has no goals since March 16 of last season. That’s 63 consecutive games. That’s 147 shots on goal without a shot in goal.
‘‘It can happen,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘It’s obviously happened. Eventually, you’re going to get one, so you just keep shooting — and shooting as hard as you can.’’
Keith has 116 shots on goal this season. The Capitals’ Brooks Orpik had the most shots without a goal (93) last season. The Flames’ Matt Bartkowski didn’t score on the first 173 shots of his career before tallying in the sixth game of his third season in 2015 with the Canucks.
But with all due respect to Orpik and Bartkowski, they’re not in Keith’s league.
‘‘It seems like a lot of my shots have been from the point,’’ Keith said. ‘‘I have to continue to find ways to be involved offensively, maybe get around the net and be a little more offensive. This team needs that.’’
Of course, Keith’s primary job isn’t to score goals; he’s supposed to prevent them and drive the offensive attack from the rear. And he hasn’t been doing that as well as he has in the past, either. His possession numbers are his best since the 2014-15 season, but he has little to show for it. The Hawks are giving up 2.56 goals per 60 minutes when Keith is on the ice and scoring only 2.05.
Asked before the Hawks’ 5-1 victory Thursday against the Red Wings to evaluate Keith’s play this season, Quenneville said, ‘‘He’s been OK.’’ But those fluent in Q-speak know that ‘‘OK’’ is anything but OK, especially for a player who has set the bar so high in the previous 12 seasons.
‘‘He’s had some good stretches,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘His play over the last little while has been better. Offensively, maybe the production is down. But he still plays a lot of valuable minutes, and he still gets to see a lot of the top guys. And a lot of nights, he does a good job on them.’’
Quenneville replaced Keith with Seabrook on the power play against the Maple Leafs, and the Hawks scored two power-play goals to break an 0-for-16 drought. Seabrook saw a significant uptick in the quality of his play when his minutes were scaled back, but there’s nobody on the roster who can step into Keith’s skates.
Quenneville demurred when he was asked whether Keith’s minutes need to be managed differently. Keith has led the Hawks in ice time all 13 of his seasons. But despite recently saying he wants to play till he’s 45, Keith has logged an awful lot of hard miles through the years.
The lack of goals, the defensive decline and the Hawks’ position in the standings have made this one of the most challenging seasons in Keith’s career. But he hasn’t given up on it yet.
‘‘This season has offered some different challenges — and unique challenges — as opposed to past years,’’ Keith said. ‘‘You look at our record and where we’re at. As a player, looking yourself in the mirror, you can’t say it’s been good enough. It hasn’t been good enough. We need to go on a run here and collect points.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.