When you think of the Chicago Blackhawks you generally categorize them mentally as the leagues best and brightest. Similarly when all star defense men Duncan Keith is brought up in conversation, instinctively you should think Hall of Famer who goes above and beyond for the city of Chicago. Well, that reputation took a ‘swing’ for the worst in Tuesday nights 4-1 loss to rival Minnesota.
Recently, Chicago’s inconstant play has left many hockey gurus questioning the powerhouses ability to go the distance. It’s safe to say this team isn’t use to dealing with this type of adversity at this stage of the season. Make no mistake, Chicago is making the playoffs and for all I know they will turn it around and be back in the Stanley Cup finals in early June.
However it’s impossible to ignore the visible signs of frustration throughout their bench.
Duncan Keith, as eluded to earlier, is heralded as one of if not the NHL’s best all around defense men. His ability to skate effortlessly through traffic and always get back defensively to make the perfect play, is dare I say Orr-esque. While it may be a crime to compare him to Bobby Orr, you simply cannot ignore Keith’s three Stanley Cup rings.
Now nobody is without sin, as the saying goes.
Tuesday night wasn’t just another hockey game. Minnesota desperately needed two points to remain in the playoff hunt. While Chicago was in dire need themselves of a moral boosting victory.
Just 10 minutes into the game Minnesota winger Charlie Coyle upends Keith. In retaliation Keith swings his stick counter clockwise across Coyles jaw clipping his nose in the process. Intentional? You be the judge.
While at first glance it appears that Keith doesn’t do it intentionally. Almost as if it was a natural swing of the stick due to landing on his back. It’s not until you slow it down that you realize it was absolutely on purpose.
Keith is no stranger to the department of player safety, according to a recent USA Today article covering the incident. In the 2013 Western Conference final he was suspended a game for a retaliatory slash to Jeff Carter. In 2012, he was suspended 5 games for his elbow to Daniel Sedin.
Without a doubt Keith deserves to miss considerable time heading into the playoffs. Plays like this are dangerous and can cause serious injury, had Coyle not been wearing a visor lord only knows the damage that could have been done. Now, suspend him into the playoffs that is an appalling notion.
What is even more appalling here is the fact it happened in the first place. As a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the best coached teams in the NHL you’d like to think incidents of this caliber wouldn’t happen.
Duncan Keith by no means is a goon, nor is he a dirty player. In both the Carter and Coyle incidents he, to a degree, was instigated which you can clearly see. Hockey is a violent sport and slashes to the face have happened. That being said that kind of action cannot be taken, its simply not a move you want your veterans to make.
When you think of a team like Chicago, they’re usually bull rushing their competition at this juncture of the season. Call it an abnormality or lack of puck luck. But from what anyone with a fully functioning pair of eyes can see, it’s pure frustration boiling over. I won’t hold this against Keith. After all with guys like Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens in the Hall of Fame and considering what they got away with in their day this looks like playful bandier.
With a handful of games remaining there’s no doubt in my mind the Blackhawks would rather have Keith piloting them through this storm, rather than watching them on his couch.
And its looking like the latter is the reality.