Calgary – Duncan Keith been here before.
Well, he might not be here – breaking a runaway 9-6 loss to open the Oilers’ second-round playoff series against their bitter regional rival – but the veteran defender’s eyes have seen pretty much everything imaginable during his 17 NHL seasons.
On the morning of game two, while his team was already teetering against a physical and grinding opponent, Keith cut a quiet figure into the microphone deep in the bowels of Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We have a fairly good understanding that it’s one match, it’s the start of the streak,” said the 38-year-old.
“But we need a response.”
Keith was a big part of Edmonton’s solution against Calgary’s ongoing high-pressure screening Friday night. He also scored a goal and assists as the Oilers bounced back from another early deficit to land the Flames 5-3 and into Alberta’s first post-season battle in 31 years 1-1.
The talented display marks the first three-point playoff performance for the Winnipeg native since May 2015 when he was on course to win his third Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Keith, in no uncertain terms, turned back the clock in Game 2.
“Just unfazed” Oilers wing Zach Heyman She said. “Someone saw it all, did it all.”
Captain Edmonton added, “Such a veteran presence over there, such a big voice in the room.” Conor MacDavid, taking advantage of Keith’s illustrious feed to spark a comeback as he was falling 3-1 in the second half. “It was great for us.”
The takeover move of Keith and his $5.5 million salary cap hit by Oilers General Manager Ken Holland last summer, however, have been widely criticized in the wake of the trade with Chicago.
Critics noted that the 2015 Conn Smythe Award winner had outlived his head, and that shouldering the full wage bill was an unnecessary move for a team pressing hard for the cap.
Keith had one goal and 20 assists in 64 regular season games in 2021-22, but Edmonton interim coach Jay Woodcroft said the value of the blue streak simply couldn’t be measured on the stats sheet.
The second game showed why.
“His presence comes at the big moments,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as going to the seat during the TV break and just saying, ‘Hey, we got this. Take a deep breath and we’re ready to go here. ”
“Sometimes it’s a big play in time.”
One of those came in the first period on Friday when he took McDavid’s one-handed bid and scored his first play-off goal since last 2016. Jacob Markstrom. Another arrived in the second set as the teams played four-on-four when he passed that pass to a zig-zag MacDavid, setting the table to finish off another daring highlight reel by the star center.
Then help Keith to Evan BouchardThe explosion of power he scored in three points before Oilers netted two goals in the third to find him all netted even as Game 3 takes place on Sunday at Rogers Place.
But his sweet, slick style in the defensive zone was just as important after the flames worked his way with the Oilers for extended stretches of Game 1 which saw Calgary take a 3-0, 5-1, 6-2 lead. Edmonton broke the hacking game better on Friday, with Keith playing a big role in relieving the pressure with a smart and thoughtful approach.
“I can’t say enough about Dunk,” Woodcroft said. “His biography is Hall of Fame worthy. He will be there someday, but in terms of his ability to pass on his experiences to our group, enough cannot be said.”
Aside from contributions between the whistles, Hyman said, Keith was prescribed to help heal the nerves of a talented group who had faltered under past bright lights, including a stunning first-round sweep last spring by the Winnipeg Jets.
“He’s a guy who’s brought in to calm the band down at times when things aren’t going well,” Heyman said. A big voice in that locker room calmed us down.
“He has a lot to give.”
Both on and off the ice.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 21, 2022.
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