With a streak like the Chicago Blackhawks have been on in the early part of the season, several players obviously have to play a key role in it. And with 15 consecutive games in which they managed at least a point, several players have. Actually, nearly every Hawk has stepped up at one point or another.
But the play of at least one Hawk could be award-winning by the time this year is all said and done: Duncan Keith.
After winning the Norris Trophy in 2010, the past couple of years have been a little rough for Keith. He’s struggled with his play all over the place. His point production was inconsistent, his offense was shaky, he couldn’t get a shot off from the blue line, and he was almost a pylon in his own zone.
All of that has changed this year. Keith has returned to that Norris Trophy-winning form this season. And everyone is beginning to take notice.
First of all, Keith has been miles better defensively than he has been the past two years. He’s playing against top tier competition and has, for the most part, stifled nearly every forward that he has gone up against. Even with Brent Seabrook struggling a bit, Keith has been making smart decisions with the puck and has simply been rock solid in his own zone.
In the offensive end, Keith has returned to that form that won him the Norris in 2010. He has nine points from the blue line, which is among the best in the league. He’s getting shots off from the point and demonstrating some terrific passing from back there as well, particularly on the cross-ice pass on the Brent Seabrook power play goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
Who or what gets the credit for Keith’s improvement in 2013? Joel Quenneville deserves at least some of the praise. Keith’s minutes are down. Coach Q has done an excellent job balancing the minutes, so Keith is playing just 24 minutes per game, rather than up around 30 like he has the past couple of seasons. Which means a much more fresh Duncan Keith.
If this play holds up and Keith continues producing at both ends of the ice, he’s going to be a Norris finalist. He’s not going to put up almost 70 points like he did back in 2009-2010, but his play this season has certainly been worthy of Norris consideration and he’ll get it.