Coach Q: Keith beyond Norris Trophy year

2013-12-02T17:41:00Z 2013-12-02T21:52:21Z Coach Q: Keith beyond Norris Trophy yearGeorge Castle Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
December 02, 2013 5:41 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Duncan Keith’s numbers speak for themselves.

But Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had the final — and very complimentary — word Monday in analyzing the kind of all-world defenseman he has in his employ.

“I’m going to say yeah, he’s progressed,” Quenneville responded when asked if Keith is playing even better than in 2009-10, when he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman for that season's Stanley Cup champions.

“I think he’s at a different level right now. I know he had an outstanding year that year. He got off to an OK start, but his last stretch of games here, he’s been terrific. He gets better with age. We like the progress both defensively and offensively.”

Keith on Monday was named the NHL’s third star of the week ending Dec. 1. He tied for the NHL lead with six assists as the Hawks won all four games, part of a current six-game winning streak, to move to 20-4-4 going into tonight's game against Dallas.

At 30, Keith obviously is coming into his prime. He leads all NHL defensemen with 23 assists and ranks second among blueliners with 24 points in 28 games this season.

“He’s defending well,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a great gap offensively. He’s got the puck a lot. His patience, play recognition. (The pair of Keith and Brent Seabrook) has been real solid for us.”

Meanwhile, Keith and wife Kelly-Rae will hold a charity concert benefitting Keith Relief on from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Jan. 20 at Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed St., in Chicago, featuring country music star Lee Brice. Proceeds will benefit Keith Relief and Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

The first benefit raised nearly $90,000. The event includes a VIP reception prior to the concert from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., featuring many current Blackhawks players. Brice, best known for “A Woman Like You” and “Love Like Crazy,” will perform from 8:30 to 10 p.m. VIP tickets ($250 each) went on sale Monday via duncankeith.com/keith-relief-concert, while general admission tickets will be available at a later date.

Not just a fighter: Fourth-line forward Brandon Bollig, formerly known just for his fists, is now entrusted with his linemates to help out with checking the Hawks opponents’ top lines and even light up the lamp occasionally.

“When your coach kind of puts your fourth line up there against the top one or two lines of other teams,” said Bollig, “especially with some of the skill that some of these teams have, it's great. It’s very humbling.

“It’s a great feeling for us that they have that confidence in us to put us out there. I can only hope it continues on and grows from there.”

Old friends: You’d figure the Hawks had seen enough of the Dallas Stars after the Hawks’ overtime victory Friday that featured 11 rounds of shootouts before Ben Smith finally scored the winner.

But the Stars come to the United Center tonight, the first home game since Nov. 17. The Hawks go back to Dallas on Dec. 10. Quenneville isn’t likely to come up with new wrinkles to handle all that familiarity.

“You got to play a hard, simple game,” Quenneville said. “That’s what we saw the other day in Dallas, a hard-working type of effort on both sides. You could see the pace was relentless. It’s fast-paced and not a lot of time to make plays.”

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