Blackhawks: Keith caps off historic postseason with Conn Smythe


Blackhawks: Keith caps off historic postseason with Conn Smythe

Brent Seabrook barely waited for the question to finish before giving his answer. It was about his longtime defensive partner Duncan Keith, so it was easy.

“Unbelievable,” Seabrook said of Keith this postseason. “He’s been unbelievable for a long time and what he did this playoffs was amazing. He got a huge goal tonight to get us started and he’s just an amazing player.”

Indeed, Keith capped a tremendous playoff run by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the postseason. Keith, who scored what ended up being the game-winning goal in the second period, played a ton of minutes. He kept saying he wasn’t tired, and he wasn’t kidding. Maybe he lied, but he wasn’t showing the fatigue. And after playing an incredible 700 minutes, Keith still had energy to hoist the Conn Smythe as well as that Stanley Cup, the latter for the third time in his career, after the Blackhawks' 2-0 Game 6 victory.

“It’s been really special,” Keith said of these winning seasons. “Obviously, you play with the same guys for a long time and you develop a bond and then when you can win a championship, it just reinforces that. To be able to do it three times we’re all proud of it. We all talked about what it would be like and like I said,we’re just super proud to be part of a group like this.”

As much as Keith always preaches the team-first mentality, he needs to take a heap of credit for himself. When Michal Rozsival went down with a fractured ankle at the end of the second round, Keith and his fellow top defensemen – Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Seabrook – knew they’d have to play the extra minutes. Keith constantly played more minutes and constantly deflected the “are you tired” questions. His stamina surprised many, including some of his newer teammates.

“No one more deserving,” Brad Richards said. “Right from the first game against Nashville, I saw a different level of hockey that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on my team. Just how [he] kept doing it and never showed any signs of fatigue. He’s probably the best player I’ve ever seen live. It was unbelievable what he did out there."

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Those sentiments were echoed by Jonathan Toews, who added “it’s about time” Keith got an individual NHL accolade.

“We all know he’s going to go down as one of the great players to play the game,” Toews said. “In our room we knew that before the playoffs but he keeps proving it time and time again. So I couldn’t be happier for a guy like that. It’s really incredible.”

The Blackhawks got here with a team effort but Keith led the charge. From start to finish, he was the team’s most consistent player. Those minutes apparently didn’t tire him out after all. Still, the chance to relax now isn’t sounding too bad.

“It’s a lot of feelings of happiness obviously but there’s some belief we got the job done,” Keith said. “We can take a breath now.”

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

USA Today

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

The Blackhawks have had many ups over the last decade-plus, highlighted by three Stanley Cups. They've also had some downs recently, missing the playoffs for two seasons in a row after nine straight appearances.

But the fan support hasn't wavered.

On Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Blackhawks announced a crowd of 21,260, which became their 500th consecutive sellout at the United Center (436 regular season, 64 postseason). The NHL record is held by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are at 572 games and counting. 

The Blackhawks have led the league in attendance for 11 straight seasons, which started during the 2008-09 campaign.

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Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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