Let’s continue Duncan Keith Week with a video:
I could talk about this goal for hours, probably. One, I’m not sure I’ve ever yelled louder at a sporting event than this one, and you can ask former editor Matthew Killion to confirm. There was a lot going into this night for all of us, and me especially, but we don’t have to get into that here. Surface level, the Hawks had a chance to clinch the Cup at home for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. A scoreless first period only built up the tension, and the fact that much like the rest of the series, the Hawks were kind of outplayed up to this point. Corey Crawford had to stop Steven Stamkos twice on the same breakaway, they didn’t create much, and slowly what seemed a certainty began to be a question.
And much like the rest of that run, Duncan Keith decided he’d simply had enough. Usually, when there are four opposing skaters back in the zone is not the time to go shotgunning up the ice if you’re a d-man. But Keith has never continually bent to logic, and what made his game so special is that he didn’t and it usually worked. After all, Kane had the puck, so if he could find a pocket of space, chances are Kane would find him.
Maybe my favorite part of this is Keith simply streaking around Cedric Pacquette for the rebound, as Pacquette didn’t shut his yap for the first half of the series amidst all the press about how he was the ultimate checking center and pest, especially after the Lightning’s Game 3 win. They didn’t win another game and we didn’t hear much from him after that. Keith left him with his dick in his hand and that’s all he’d win after this.
In the building, it happened in slow motion. The rebound we never expected to see lying there, practically teasing everyone, because Keith’s initial shot wasn’t all that strong. The arc he took around Pacquette at a speed that didn’t seem possible, and the realization, “He’s going to get there.” And that he would have an open look from three feet (and one you’ll recall he whiffed on in 2011 against the Red Wings that would have gotten the Hawks into the playoffs, which they backdoored into anyway). It’s the amount of separation he gets from everyone else at this moment. No one would have caught him with a jet engine up their ass.
One of the few things Eddie Olczyk and I agree on is that the United Center has never been louder than when this puck flipped up over Ben Bishop. Sure, it was only the second period, but the Hawks weren’t giving up that lead. The catharsis at the moment in that building was real. Clawing back a dream we’d had all our lives. Mostly because they had Duncan Keith and the Lightning didn’t.
That 2015 run is not only Keith’s masterpiece, you’d be hard-pressed to find another playoff performance in this city anywhere that doesn’t involve the words “Jordan.” Both the Cubs and Sox World Series runs were basically team-efforts. The Hawks’ two previous runs were the same, though Keith was among the standouts in those. I guess we’ll have to wait until Khalil Mack’s 10-sack run to the Super Bowl sometime soon.
He scored three goals in that run. One was the OT winner in Game 1 against Nashville. The second was the series clincher against the Predators, and the Hawks desperately needed both or at best they would have been facing a Game 7 on the road. The third was this. That’s certainly making them count.
In between, Keith averaged 31 minutes a night. He gobbled up 44% of the team’s even-strength time, a number only topped by Kris Letang in ’16 for a team that went beyond the second round in the last seven years (fun note: the hightest TOI% of a playoff year is also Keith’s, which was 47% in 2016’s first round). His relative-corsi in the spring of ’15 was +5.4. His relative-xGF% was an unholy +8.7. When Keith was on the ice the Hawks were dangerous and dominant. When he wasn’t, they were clinging with their nails to the side of the dock.
You don’t need the numbers to know how good he was that spring. Thanks to Kimmo Timonen being dead and Michal Rozsival’s ankle becoming a modern art piece against Minnesota, the Hawks only had four d-men for the last two rounds. They had to survive them, and I’m not quite sure how they did other than Bruce Boudreau’s team playing with both hands around its neck again when the lights were brightest and Keith and Crawford at their best in the Final. If it seemed like Keith was never off the ice in the last 13 games, it’s because he wasn’t. The least he played in the last two rounds was 27:23 in Game 5 against the Ducks. Against the Bolts it was never less than 29 minutes. And again, he was utterly dominant in those.
It was barely controlled fury. It was more than the usual Keith-stepping-up-into-the-neutral-zone shit. He was on both sides. He was up the ice and then back. He was stripping someone behind the net, calling Kesler a fuckwad, and then joining the play, seemingly in one motion. You can only play four d-men in a game if on is insistent on being two or three at the same time.
This goal was kind of a microcosm of all 23 games. Keith deciding he’d had enough, streaking somewhere you never figured him to be and no one able to get in his way. Whether it was a goal to be scored or a forward to be dispossessed, Keith was on it like a pissed off bowling ball. Keith basically decided the Hawks were going to win a Cup. And then he did almost all of the heavy lifting.
We know that Keith will never do that again, and maybe that tapped all the reserves for good. I know it was worth it.