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Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith wins Conn Smythe


CHICAGO—At one point in the playoffs, a reporter asked Chicago coach Joel Quenneville if he thought Duncan Keith could play an entire game.

The query drew a chuckle, but the point was made: No one gets more ice time than Keith, and no one was more important to the Chicago Blackhawks in their third Stanley Cup victory in six years than Keith.

For that reason, Keith was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs by select members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

“He’s obviously got the skills and the qualities that everybody sees night in, night out,” said Brent Seabrook, Keith’s longtime playing partner. “Nobody wants to win more than that guy. He’s going to do whatever it takes.

“He’s one of those special, special athletes that, you know, won’t give up. He’s fun to have been around and watched him progress into this player that he is. I think, like I said, he’s got so many great qualities that set him apart from different players in the league that make him great.”

Keith logged more than 700 minutes in the playoffs, only the fourth NHLer to eclipse that total.

Keith scored the opening goal in Game 6, taking a pass from Patrick Kane and following up on his own rebound to beat Tampa goalie Ben Bishop late in the second period.

With the goal, his third of the playoffs, he earned his 21st point of the playoffs, tying Chris Pronger for most points by a blue-liner in the post-season over the past 20 years.

Keith grew up in Fort Frances, Ont., idolizing the likes of Ray Bourque, Cam Neely and Wayne Gretzky. At age 10, he switched from forward to defence. Drafted by Chicago in the second round in 2002, he has only ever played for the Blackhawks and probably only ever will.

He has completed the fifth yeaer of a 13-year, $ 72 million (U.S.) contract that, when it was signed, was the most lucrative in team history. It has since been surpassed by deals signed by Kane and Toews.

But Keith has proven his value. He had one assist each in Games 1 and 3 and led all defencemen with 18 assists and 21 points this post-season. Only four defencemen in NHL history have collected more assists in one playoff year: Paul Coffey (25 in 1985 with Edmonton), Al MacInnis (24 in 1989 with Calgary), Brian Leetch (23 in 1994 with NY Rangers) and Bobby Orr (19 in 1972 with Boston).

“He’s our No. 1 guy back there,” said defenceman Johnny Oduya. “He’s a guy that logs a lot of minutes. He’s a leader. He’s one of the guys who has been around for a long time, if not the longest.

“He’s the backbone of the team. He’s one of the guys you want to build around if you’re an organization. He’s one of those guys you want to have. He’s relentless. He never quits. He wants to be better every day.

“If you come in and you’re a young defenceman, you come in and you watch him, how he approaches the game. Just want to be the best every day. That’s something you don’t see a lot, especially with guys with tremendous skill.”

TORONTO STAR | SPORTS

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