June 07, 2010
As this year's Stanley Cup Final nears its end, the long-running Conn Smythe debate is yet to be settled. And because of that, the door is open for Duncan Keith(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks to walk through and grab another trophy on his way to his own version of VH1's Best Year Ever.
In the 2010 Finals, he's leading the Blackhawks in points with six (one goal, five assists), which brings his playoff totals to 16 points in 21 games - not too shabby for a defenseman. His 14 assists in the playoffs are the most by a defensemen and fifth highest among all players.
He leads his team in ice time (averaging over 28 minutes a game, trailing only Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) and Zdeno Chara(notes) of the Boston Bruins in playoffs) and he's been the stabilizing force for a team that relies heavily on him as not just as an even-strength/powerplay guy, but also as a penalty killer.
Keith's unique blend of cunning and quickness consistently enables him to break out his forwards where other defensemen fail, easily giving them more chances per game to create at the offensive end. He's been the one constant the Hawks have counted on, night in, teeth out.
Ask any Blackhawk "which player being out of the lineup would hurt your team the most?" and they'd all point to Keith. Even Beyonce would call him irreplaceable.
As of today, only one thing is certain - no player has been good enough to garner the trophy if their team doesn't end up hoisting the Cup.
But up 3-2 and already the favorite in the series, it's looking more and more like the Hawks could be the team getting their names on the Cup.
But should the Blackhawks capture Game 6 in Philadelphia, it'd be very hard to give it to either guy with a straight face. When the games mattered most, Toews' stat-line reads five games played, zero goals, two assists, minus four and 13 shots. He's been more effective than those numbers show, but when you're an offensive guy, numbers count.
Worse still are Niemi's stats, who's Finals goals-against-average of 3.60 is further undercut by the fact that he's only played one game with a save percentage better than .875 in the first five contests.
Where Niemi and Toews have taken turns skyrocketing and plummeting like the Dow, Keith has been like a solid low-risk investment, increasing in value as time ticks on.
And as for Dustin Byfuglien(notes), one run-on sentence ends his candidacy: As a forward who spent most of the post-season with Toews and Kane, he has one less point than Keith, fifteen less shots, is minus three overall, and had one assist in the first four finals games, averaging just over 16 minutes of ice time. Stop it.
If the Hawks win the Cup and Keith takes the Conn Smythe, can you imagine how he'll remember the year 2010?
He has something in play that nobody in the history of hockey has ever accomplished - he could win an Olympic Gold, a Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe, and possibly the Norris Trophy in the same year. Wouldn't that be the best year by a hockey player ... ever?