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Chicago Blackhawks: Duncan Keith Celebrates His Birthday

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 21: Duncan Keith
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 21: Duncan Keith /
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CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 23: Duncan Keith
CHICAGO, IL – MARCH 23: Duncan Keith /

Here’s what an opponent had to say about playing against Duncan Keith.

Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks wrote an article last summer with The Players’ Tribune titled, “The 5 Toughest Defensemen I’ve Ever Faced”.  Keith is part of this list.  Here’s what Couture had to say about him.

"“He’s a feisty player. He’ll be in your face, cross-checking you as many times as he can get away with without taking a penalty. He plays as hard in front of the net as anybody in the league, despite not being the biggest guy. He finds the spots to hit you where you’re going to feel it. Duncan is a great skater, which is what every guy on my list has in common. What’s different about Duncan is that his technique is a little unorthodox. His strides are short, choppy bursts.   But he’s really, really fast, and he pivots quickly to escape pressure. Big, bruising defensemen in the mold of Chris Pronger are kind of a dying breed because of how fast the game is now and how the rules have changed. Those guys just have a hard time keeping up. In today’s game, the best defensemen are smart and disciplined, and can skate stride-for-stride with the forwards. Keith checks all those boxes. He can contain you just by having quick feet and sticking right with you, freezing you out of the play.” “Keith is great at constantly moving around the zone — jumping in, then popping back out into space — and getting open for the one-timer. He scores a lot of goals that way. There is a relentlessness to his game that kind of wears you down.”"

Heavy minutes, limited rest and recovery, and constant motion.  These are the kind of things that eventually take their toll on a body.  Especially one that’s 34-years old.  Keith is one of the elder stateman now for the Chicago Blackhawks.  Michal Rozsival is 38-years old, but he’s not exactly a regular player anymore.  It’s hard to say how much, if any, playing time he’ll see this year.  Newly re-signed Patrick Sharp is one year older, at 35-years of age.  Jordin Tootoo is also 34.

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Keith’s offensive production is still relatively high.  Here’s a good comparison.  In 2015, when he won the Conn Smythe, Keith’s regular season contribution included 10 goals and 35 assists, for 45 points.  This past season, his numbers were 6 goals and 47 assists, for 53 points.  In both seasons he was highly durable, playing in 80 games.  The 2015-16 season saw Duncs battle some injury; he only suited up for 67 games.  Nevertheless, he still managed 9 goals and 34 assists (43 points).

It’s on the defensive side of things where we might see Keith slowing down.  As the top defenseman, he’s asked to shut down the best competition from the other team.  This is where he may have taken a step back.  He no longer seems as quick, or to have the right positioning to contain his opponent.

Many, many people have doubted Duncs before.  Yet he always manages to overcome adversity and surprise us.  With the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson, it appears that Keith will have a different dance partner this year.   It looks like he’ll be paired up with newly acquired Connor Murphy.  Or we could see him alongside long-time partner and friend Brent Seabrook, or even someone else.

Next: Hawks Defense Being Rebuilt

Whomever it may be, a lot is going to be expected of Keith this year, and father time is catching up to him.  But I have faith he’s up to the task.  He’s probably riding his stationary bike as we speak.

Aw, take a break today to rest and recover, Duncs.  After all, it’s your birthday!