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Duncan Keith wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP

Duncan Keith on Conn Smythe: 'You don't get these awards without being on great teams.'

As the families of the Blackhawks players took the ice, Duncan Keith put down his Conn Smythe Trophy and picked up his 2-year-old son Colton with one hand.

With a beaming smile across his face, it seemed like Keith wasn't about to let go. In his other hand, he held a bottle of Gatorade.

But Keith didn't need the instant re-energization. Instead, he gave the Gatorade to Colton, who chugged it for all to see on the United Center video board.

For the entire Stanley Cup playoffs, teams kept waiting for Keith to wear down. How could he possibly log 30-plus minutes per night and maintain such a high level of play. Surely, a breakdown was coming at some point, right? It never did.

For his herculean efforts, Keith was a unanimous selection for the Smythe after the Hawks' 2-0 championship clinching victory. He became just the ninth defenseman in league history and first Hawks defenseman to win the award given to the MVP of the playoffs.

"It feels so great. You want to keep being a part of these things," said Keith, who won his third Stanley Cup. "You don't get these awards without being on great teams with great players and like I said, I'm just proud to be a part of this group of guys who care so much and do whatever it takes."

Keith certainly did that. He logged 30 minutes, 19 seconds of ice time in Game 6. Oh, and he also scored the winning goal.

Anybody who thought Keith might have tired legs might want to ask Lightning center Cedric Paquette how they looked.

It was Paquette who Keith danced around to collect his own rebound for the first goal of the game in the second period at 17 minutes, 13 seconds that set off possibly the loudest version of "Chelsea Dagger" ever sung in the United Center.

"Right from the first game against the Predators, I saw a different level on hockey, I don't know that I've ever seen on any of my teams," veteran center and first-season Blackhawk Brad Richards said. "How well he played, how he just kept doing it, how he never showed any sign of fatigue. He's probably the best player I've ever seen live."

Said center Marcus Kruger: "It's an honor just to be on the same team as him."

Keith became just the fourth player in Stanley Cup history to log more than 700 minutes of ice time in the playoffs since 1998 according to the NHL, joining Drew Doughty of the Kings in 2013, Chris Pronger with the Oilers in 2006 and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings in 2002. Lidstrom also won the Smythe trophy. Keith, 31, was averaging 31:09 of ice time entering Game 6.

"It's an honor just to be on the same team as him," center Marcus Kruger said.

After the game, Keith said the same about his teammates.

"It's a lot of feelings of happiness obviously but there's some belief we got the job done," Keith said. "We can take a breath now."

Keith certainly deserved his breather.

chine@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

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