Blackhawks

Duncan Keith's 'freak' effort lifts Blackhawks to Game 6 win

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Duncan Keith's 'freak' effort lifts Blackhawks to Game 6 win

The NHL doesn't test for bionics, but if they did Duncan Keith may have a hard time passing. 

At the ripe age of 31, Keith is showing no signs of slowing down.

In his tenth year in the NHL, Keith is putting the Blackhawks on his back night in and night out, trying to will the team to a third Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2010.

"It’s unbelievable," Andrew Shaw said. "One of those athletes that digs down and finds that extra step. He’s a huge asset and lucky to be on our side."

If the Anaheim Ducks thought that the burden of carrying the Blackhawks defensive core and the insane amount of minutes he has logged this postseason were going to eventually take a toll on Keith, he proved that theory wrong in the Blackhawks' 5-2 Game 6 victory Wednesday evening.

[MORE HAWKS: Huge second period from Blackhawks forces Game 7 vs. Ducks]

With both teams playing a game of chess throughout the first 20 minutes of action, Keith made a series of moves that triggered the Blackhawks to a lead the Ducks were unable to rebound from in Game 6.

Midway through the second period, Keith launched a stretch pass that tipped off Patrick Kane's stick to a streaking Brandon Saad, who used his speed to get in all alone past Ducks defenders and fire a wrist shot through Frederik Andersen's five hole, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

Just two minutes later, Keith showed remarkable patience by twice faking a slapshot to draw Andersen out of the net, sliding a pass over to a wide open Marian Hossa, who buried an easy one-timer into a wide open Anaheim net to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.

Keith's string of dominance from an offensive standpoint would continue just over a minute later.

A clearing attempt from behind the Ducks net appeared that it would easily sail out of the defensive zone, but Keith was somehow able to keep the puck in at the blue line and find Kane, who made an ankle-breaking move past Matt Beleskey and send a shot through the short side that Andersen was unable to corral. 

[WATCH: Blackhawks explode for three goals in second period]

Just like that it was 3-0 Blackhawks and pandemonium ensued from a boisterous crowd of 22,089 at the United Center, hoping that Wednesday wasn't the last Blackhawks game they would witness this season.

"There are nights when you look at the score sheet and you see how pivotal he can be," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "How much he means to our team, especially in these big games. But whether he’s on that score sheet...he’s there every night. He’s making that difference no matter what. We always know that in the locker room.

“We’ve seen in previous years in the playoffs, when it’s must win, you can count on him stepping up and being one of our best players, if not our best player.”

The reigning James Norris Memorial Trophy winner entered Game 6 as the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs leader with an average of 32:06 ice time per game. He played just a tick under 29 minutes in Game 6, three-plus minutes lower than his postseason average. Still, he was on the ice more than any player on Wednesday night.

Is there a secret to his ability to log heavy minutes?

"Well, he’s kind of a freak as far as his metabolism and conditioning level," head coach Joel Quenneville deadpanned following Game 6. "The more he plays the more he gets going. Certain guys, genetically or aerobically, they can sustain it. He keeps doing it.

"He’s constantly eating, constantly putting liquids back into his system, he rests properly. When we do the testing, his numbers are usually at the high, high end."

While Keith made a monster impact in the offensive zone in Game 6, it was a play he made in front of Corey Crawford that may have saved the Blackhawks season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

After Clayton Stoner pulled the Ducks to within one goal of the Blackhawks early in the third period, Anaheim appeared to have gotten the equalizer when a shot from the point got past Crawford and floated just centimeters in front of the goal line. Keith swept the puck away just before it was able to cross the line, which would be the closest the Ducks would come to scoring the tying goal. 

It was par for the course for Keith, and the goaltender playing behind him more than appreciates his nightly effort.

“He plays great every game," Crawford said. "Every game he makes plays. But he’s been solid for us all year, every year. He’s one of the best and definitely showed it tonight.”

Keith has played at a high level in each game of the Western Conference Final on just one day rest. 

Imagine what he could do with an extra day off? The Blackhawks will find out in a win-or-go-home Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final berth on the line in Anaheim on Saturday night.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.