Duncan Keith’s always logged a lot of ice time, even in regulation games; it’s just part of his makeup, dating back to his childhood.
“Maybe all those years of being on an outdoor rink all day long — when you play seven or eight hours as a kid — kind of makes playing five or six periods not that much,” Keith said.
Well, it’s one thing to play hours upon hours as a kid. You have boundless energy during those years. Playing 46 minutes in a triple-overtime game as a 31-year-old seems just a tad more daunting. In Keith’s case, though, apparently not. The Blackhawks defenseman played a long time and played well on Tuesday night, when the Blackhawks edged the Nashville Predators 3-2 in Game 4 of their first-round series.
For Keith, this just comes with the postseason overtime-game drill: chances are he’ll log a lot of minutes and play in a lot of situations.
“I feel a little bit better than I did after Game 1,” said Keith, who played just under 40 minutes and had the game-winning goal in Game 1, a double-overtime contest. “I’m not sure if that’s just because the body gets used to it. Just like everybody else, you try to get as much sleep as you can and recovery as far as your nutrition and rest and I’m just doing all the little things to try and get your body ready to go at it again tomorrow night.”
As active as Keith was on the ice on Tuesday night, he was apparently as vocal during the intermissions.
“He was the one talking in the locker room, saying, ‘Let’s just wait these guys out. Let’s just be patient. Let’s just be smart. We can wear them out and find that one mistake they’re going to make, and we’re going to capitalize on it,’” Jonathan Toews said. “He was with it. He could play another 46 minutes I’m sure. He was willing to do whatever it took to win last night, for sure.”
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Coach Joel Quenneville said following Game 4 that it was no surprise that Keith could play those minutes and play them well. He’s done it over enough regular seasons — Keith was seventh in the NHL in time on ice/game this season, averaging 25 minutes, 33 seconds a night. Despite leading the team in TOI/game — Brent Seabrook is next at 22:10 a night — Keith downplays the marathon outings.
“I know it’s a lot of hockey, a lot of games in a short period of time. I think we’ve got a lot of guys on the team who played a lot of minutes,” he said. “It’s no different there where when we do have time off you try to recover and do the best job you can to get the body ready to go for the next game.”
Playing a ton of minutes is just what Keith does. If it’s taxing, he’s not saying. Perhaps he’s channeling his inner kid, the one who used to play outdoor hockey for hours on end, even today.
“I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve been smarter in researching and learning ways to take care of the body. I think that helps,” Keith said. “I feel the same way I did when I was 22.”