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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

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Blackhawks: Major minutes child's play for Duncan Keith

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.

[MORE: Blackhawks win triple-OT thriller over Predators in Game 4]

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.”

[SHOP: Get a Duncan Keith jersey here]

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.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

David Haugh, Jason Goff and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Pat Boyle and Patrick Sharp drop by to talk about the Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals. Plus, Sharpie talks about the young Hawks who will be stars in the future.

12:00- Super Bowl LIII is set after a dramatic and controversial Championship Sunday. Does the NFL need to expand instant replay to include pass interference after a no-call cost the Saints a Super Bowl bid? Plus does the league need to change its overtime format after Patrick Mahomes didn't get to touch the ball at the end of the AFC title game?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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