Coming off arguably his best game of the season in Game 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks quarterfinal matchup with the Vancouver Canucks, defenseman Duncan Keith admitted he struggled this year and wasn't ready for the start of the season.
"This year for me was frustrating," Keith said after the Hawks landed in Chicago Friday. "I felt like I had really good stretches and then there were times where -- I don't want to say lost focus -- but not really as interested for whatever reason. I don't know, I'm not explaining it right but I'd have good stretches and bad stretches and more inconsistency then I would have liked. I'm trying to have a good playoff here and do what I can to keep the team going."
Keith had 45 points in the regular season with a minus-1 rating. In 2009-10, when he won the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman, he was plus-21.
"I'm not making any excuses but I didn't feel excited coming back at the start the season," Keith said. "[I'm] just being honest and I'm excited to play hockey now. Once you get off to a bad start and you're not happy with it, it's tough to get out of. It can snowball in some ways. You think you're getting out of it then it comes back and becomes a mental thing. It makes you appreciate having a good start."
Keith says there are things "he could have done differently in the summer to prepare for the season" but he's picked up his game in the 2011 playoffs. His four goals and six points lead all defensemen in scoring and he's coming off a two-goal, two-assist performance in Game 5.
And he's played his best hockey without his partner Brent Seabrook in the lineup.
"His game progressed as the season has gone along here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's really taken off over the last three or four games of the series."
The Canucks lead the Hawks 3-2 in the series. Game 6 is Sunday at the United Center.
Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPNChicago.com.