Keith putting together another Norris-worthy season

Keith putting together another Norris-worthy season
March 22, 2014, 7:00 pm
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Duncan Keith spoke earlier this year about how he’s possibly in the best shape of his career this season. What he won’t speak of as much is how he got to that point.

“I don’t like to give my training secrets out,” he said with a wry smile following the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. While the defenseman stays mum on those “secrets,” there’s no denying his game is once again in peak form.

Keith is putting together another Norris Trophy-worthy season, be it with his consistent play or his impressive numbers. Let’s go with the numbers first, which include 50 assists, tops among NHL defensemen and just five shy of the career-best 55 he had in 2009-10, when he did win the Norris. Keith also has five goals and is a plus-24.

But whether he’s putting up the offensive numbers or not Keith has been a consistent presence again this season.

“He’s had some really good games and an outstanding season,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Offensively, he has play recognition with more patience at the offensive zone, with the shot and getting action on it or tips. He had a couple plays around the net where there were wide tips at the post. His vision, he’s gotten better in that area, and his production reflects that as well.”

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Gone are the days where Keith had to log about 30 minutes a game, especially right after the Blackhawks broke up their 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning team. For two consecutive seasons (2010-11 and 2011-12), Keith averaged a league-high 26 minutes, 53 seconds of playing time per game. With depth back at defense, Keith is now playing 24:34. With the NHL back to an 82-game season and with Olympics thrown in, that’s key.

So is that training regimen. Keith wouldn’t share specific details but said a few tweaks and learning lessons through the years has helped.

“I think nutrition’s a big part of it. You get older and you realize how important it is and how much it can help you,” he said. “I think I’ve been strict and disciplined in my training and that’s helped in conditioning.”

Continued success and confidence doesn’t hurt, either. Jonathan Toews said Keith’s great play at the Olympics, where the two won their second consecutive gold medals with Team Canada, has also come back with him.

“He definitely carried in what he had during the Olympics, the confidence he built in that tournament,” Toews said. “He’s a consistent player with so many good things he’s doing; even if he’s not on the score sheet he’s doing so much for our team. When he plays with energy and has that jump like he has, he’s a noticeable player. He’s great defensively and can jump on the offense as well.”

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Keith is making the most of his minutes and is again a big part of the Blackhawks’ offense. He’s also a big part of the Norris conversation once again.

That is definitely no secret.

“The biggest thing for me is to try to push the pace out there and get our team game going,” he said. “I feel like when I’m playing at my best, that gives our team a better chance to win. I play a lot of minutes, so I want to be good every night.”