New dad Duncan Keith sleeping well, thanks to wife
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org May 11, 2013 7:36PM
Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith ranked 24th in the league in average minutes played this season after being among the top four in the last three seasons. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: June 13, 2013 7:26PM
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had little trouble shutting down Minnesota Wild stars Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But his off-ice challenger — little Colton Keith, who was born Tuesday — has proved to be a bit tougher to silence.
Fortunately for Keith, his partner off the ice, wife Kelly-Rae, is
every bit as effective as his partner on the ice, Niklas Hjalmarsson.
‘‘My sleep’s good,’’ Keith said. ‘‘My wife’s isn’t, though. She’s been really good about that. She knows it’s the playoffs and I need to get my sleep. She’s battling there. She’s
Rest has been a common theme for Keith this season. After finishing among the NHL’s top four players in ice time per game in each of the last three seasons — averaging nearly 27 minutes — Keith has seen his ice time drop to 24 minutes per game. That’s still the most on the Hawks, but it’s 24th in the league. That was by design, as Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wanted to limit the minutes his top guys played during the compressed schedule.
It helps that the Hawks have such depth on the blue line. While Wild defenseman Ryan Suter played 41 minutes in Game 1 of the first-round series, the Hawks have the luxury of three strong pairings and can keep Keith fresh. With that in mind, Keith, a noted fitness freak, didn’t fight it.
‘‘When you think about it, it’s only one or two shifts less over the course of a game,’’ Keith said. ‘‘Maybe one shift less a period. It’s not that much.’’
But it might have made a difference. After playing 48 games in 99 days, Keith was at his best against the Wild. As always, Keith and Hjalmarsson drew the opponent’s top line, and the Parise line mustered only one goal and a minus-17 rating in five games.
‘‘He has a level that not a lot of players in this league have,’’ said Hjalmarsson, who’s been skating with Keith since the end of March, when Quenneville broke up the longstanding duo of Keith and Brent Seabrook. ‘‘When he plays at the highest level that he can, he’s a dominant guy in this league. That’s what he’s been doing here, especially in this first round. He’s been playing unbelievable.’’
Goalie Corey Crawford is particularly happy to have a player such as Keith in front of him, even if it’s for 24 minutes a game instead of 27.
‘‘He’s a special player,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘The plays he makes sometimes, it looks easy. But when you’re on the ice, you appreciate the skill he has and what he can do for us.’’
Whether the Hawks draw the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinals, Keith and Hjalmarsson will face a tall task. If it’s the Red Wings, they’ll have to shut down Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. If it’s the Sharks, they’ll have to deal with Joe Thornton, Joe
Pavelski and Patrick Marleau.
Keith said it doesn’t really matter, as long as the Hawks do their job. That includes getting help from backchecking forwards and having Crawford bail them out from time to time.
‘‘Thornton’s a big guy, and he likes to guard the puck,’’ Keith said. ‘‘But Datsyuk’s not the biggest guy, and he can guard the puck pretty good, too. At the end of the day, it’s what we do that we need to focus on and prepare for.’’
A little rest each night won’t hurt, either.
‘‘He thrives in big-game situations,’’ winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘And the fact that he did that a
couple of times [against the Wild] on no sleep is even more impressive.’’