The NHL put its 2019-20 season on pause March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but remains hopeful to award the Stanley Cup at some point. Although it's unclear if or when it could return, NBC Sports Chicago will recap the season of each Blackhawks player to date in our "season in review" series. Next up is Duncan Keith.
Duncan Keith is a physical specimen and the Blackhawks have been spoiled by his ability to play at an elite level while staying healthy for the last decade and a half. No Blackhawk has logged more minutes in the regular season and postseason than Keith since he entered the league in 2005-06. And they’re hard minutes, too.
But for the first time in what feels like forever, the Blackhawks felt what life was like without their two-time Norris Trophy winner after he missed nearly three weeks with a groin injury that nagged at him for a month before it worsened on Nov. 29 against Colorado and forced him to take some time off to recover. And it didn't go very well.
The Blackhawks went 3-5-1 in the nine games Keith missed and had the fourth-worst points percentage (.389) in the NHL over that span. They also had a minus-13 goal differential and penalty kill percentage of 76.7, which ranked 21st. When he was in the lineup, the Blackhawks were 29-25-7 with a plus-7 goal differential and 83.1 penalty kill percentage, which would rank No. 5.
No one player can replace what Keith brings to the table on a nightly basis. It’s a committee approach, and that’s what the Blackhawks were forced to do.
"It's one of those things you're so used to having him on the back end doing what he does, it's almost like you take it for granted," Jonathan Toews said of Keith in November. "A lot of minutes he plays, what he does offensively and defensively, just how he makes the game easier on his own partner and everyone around him too. Hopefully he'll be back soon; not used to being out there without a guy like him and definitely hurts a lot."
Keith plays more even-strength and penalty-kill minutes than anybody else on the team and logs the most power-play minutes among team defenseman. His ice time average of 24:23 is his highest since the 2016-17 season when he averaged 25:37 per game.
Even as he approaches age 37, Keith remains a valuable part of the Blackhawks.
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