With the season now finished, I’ll be reviewing the individual performances of Chicago Blackhawks players and giving out grades based on their play during the 2013-14 season. In this article I’ll take a look at Duncan Keith.
Keith’s regular season was one of the best of his career, perhaps topped only by 2009-10 Norris Trophy-winning campaign. He stepped back up to the 60-point plateau this season after several years of middling offensive production, racking up the most assists among all NHL defensemen en route to 61 points. Keith’s dominance in the transition game was something to behold; there is no player in the world better at rapidly turning opposing scoring chances into offensive opportunities for his own team.
On the defensive side of things, Keith provided his typical excellence. With Joel Quenneville choosing to deploy Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya against other teams’ top lines, Keith’s own-zone game (which is already elite) flourished even further for obvious reasons. Consequently, he was by far the Blackhawks’ most dominant puck possession defenseman. Overall, Keith’s regular season was incredible, and he is presently the favorite to take home the Norris for the second time.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the playoffs didn’t go quite as rosily for No. 2. Things started out well, with Keith being the second biggest reason (behind only Corey Crawford) for the Blackhawks getting past the St. Louis Blues in the first round. He ran into difficulty in the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, however, as did much of Chicago’s defensive corps. Turnovers were a major problem, and he looked less comfortable handling the puck than usual.
Following the season-ending Game 7, rumors swirled about Keith playing through a significant shoulder injury. If true, it would go a long way towards explaining why he wasn’t anything close to his normal self against the Kings. In any case, Keith was tremendous for the vast majority of 2013-14 and gets an A- as a result.