As the Chicago Blackhawks sealed their third Stanley Cup in six years, on Monday night, one man stood out in amongst the team’s success.
Alternate captain and defenseman, Duncan Keith, was phenomenal during the NHL postseason and was rightly recognized for his achievements by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
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Lets crack some numbers. In 23 playoff games Keith notched a total of 21 points, three goals and 18 assists. That’s the joint highest number of points by a defenseman in the past 20 years. Each goal was a game winner, including the cup-winning goal itself in game six against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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This resulted in Keith becoming the first person to win the Conn Smythe trophy and score the cup-winning goal, in the same year, since Henrik Zetterberg achieved the feat in 2008 with the Detroit Redwings.
The stats are impressive on their own but even more so when you consider the Blackhawks circumstances. An injury to Michal Rozsival left the Blackhawks defensively thin after the Western Conference Second Round. As a result they had to lean heavily on their top four defenders.
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Led by Keith they managed to make it through in tremendous fashion. Chicago coach, Joel Quenneville, ended up using his top two defensive lines about 85% of the time up until the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks.
In the Stanley Cup final itself he played them 90% of the time. “No human can withstand that many hits," said Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler. He was referring to the physical play of these Blackhawks defenders. This just emphasizes the achievements of Keith during the playoffs. There was never any let off or reduction in effort despite the circumstances.
Among teams that played past the first round, Keith led every player in the postseason with 31:06 of ice time per game. He also became the fourth skater in NHL history to log more than 700 minutes in a postseason. In total he accumulated a total of 715:37 of ice time.
"He's an amazing player," stated Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. "You look at the workload he has and to contribute the way he does at both ends of the ice, in every situation, he does it all. He was fantastic. I've never seen him play better in his career and he's obviously won a couple (of Norris Trophies), so that says a lot."
Blackhawks' forward, Kris Versteeg, claimed that Keith was, “the best player in the world right now."
Chicago’s latest Stanley Cup win cements their place in history as a sporting dynasty, but you can’t ignore the individual contributions on the ice. Keith is the best defenseman, on current form, in the game right now.
Watching him during the Blackhawks run was a real pleasure for a neutral fan such as myself. He can finally have some relax time after a superhuman postseason effort.
WAS DUNCAN KEITH A DESERVING CONN SMYTHE WINNER? TELL US BELOW...