Now that it’s over, we can look back at the five games Duncan Keith was suspended. How did the Blackhawks do without the NHL’s ice time leader?
Looking just at the Hawks’ record, they certainly survived being without Keith. With four of the five games against three playoff teams – Nashville (twice), New Jersey and St. Louis – the Hawks were 2-1-2 (six of 10 possible points) while missing Keith.
Digging a little deeper, though, there is a lot of good the Hawks can take away from the five games.
The Hawks were outscored 18-14 over the five games (not including the shootout winners). However, one very impressive stat is the number of shots the Blackhawks allowed on net without Keith.
In the five games, only the Preds (in Nashville) put more than 26 shots on net in regulation; the Blackhawks allowed an average of 24 shots on net in regulation. Including the overtimes, the Hawks allowed only 25.8 shots on net per game. Both of those numbers are well below the Hawks season average of 28.6 shots per game, which ranks ninth in the NHL.
But the biggest impact on the blue line in Chicago during Keith’s absence was a return of confidence from Nick Leddy. In the last five games, Leddy’s ice time has jumped to over 22 minutes in every game and he has responded. Leddy had five assists in the five games without Keith, registering a point in four of the five games.
The Blackhawks power play continued to struggle without Keith, scoring three times in 20 attempts; whether Keith is in the lineup or not, the Hawks are scoring on around 15 percent of their power plays this year.
Interestingly, the Hawks’ penalty kill suffered while without Keith. Certainly the Hawks aren’t having a good season killing penalties (rank 28th in the NHL at 78.2 percent), but they allowed five goals on 14 opponents’ power plays while missing Keith (64.3 percent).
Most importantly, the Blackhawks started Keith’s suspension in sixth place in the Western Conference and end it in… sixth place. Ultimately, the suspension may serve Keith some good, getting him some much-needed rest before the postseason.
His partner on the Hawks’ blue line, Brent Seabrook, might need Keith to pick up the slack when he returns. Here are Seabrook’s ice time totals in the five games without Keith:
- vs NSH – 24:44
- @ NJ – 29:50
- vs STL – 27:40
- @ NSH – 31:12
- vs MIN – 29:54
Johnny Oduya also skated over 29 minutes twice, including over 31 minutes against St. Louis.
There are two games left in the regular season. Keith will return to the lineup in Minnesota, and captain Jonathan Toews has been cleared for contact. How good can these Blackhawks be when they have the full roster on the ice together? We’ll (hopefully) see soon.