Keith scored just three goals on 170 shots on net for a 1.8 shooting percent through his first 67 games this season. During that same span, he had a team-leading 50 assists.
That shooting trend has dramatically changed in the past week.
He matched his season total of goals by scoring three times over the past five games. His shooting percentage is now nearly doubled for the season.
Keith admits to tinkering with his shot a bit, but he believes other factors have also affected it. Whatever the case, he's just pleased to be contributing even more.
“I don’t know,” Keith said after scoring a goal against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. “It’s just kind of funny like that. It can be a little adjustment you make. It’s nice to hit the net. If you hit the net, you can create some chaos and some chance for us. I try to change a few things with it, but it seems to be working lately.”
One difference as of late is that Keith’s shots are getting to the net more often. He had six total shots against the Stars and five of them were on goal. He had five total shots against the Nashville Predators on Sunday and four them on goal.
Over the past five games, he has had 24 shots, with 15 on net, six blocked and three missed. By comparison, he had 20 shots on goal and 26 blocked or missed in the eight games prior to that.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville believes Keith is doing a better job of finding openings through the defense in recent games.
“He’s shooting it,” Quenneville said. “I think one-timing, getting it through. It might seem like [his shot is] a little heavier, but he’s just pounding it before the lane tightens up. Just getting it through, sometimes you get a lot of action. Sometimes they go in. Just keep thinking shots, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
On Tuesday, Keith gathered a pass from Patrick Sharp, skated backward a few feet, set up the puck how he wanted it and fired a slap shot from between the left circle and blue line. The puck flew past two players in front of the net and beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen into the right corner. Keith scored his previous goal on a one-timer a bit more to his right side against the St. Louis Blues.
Keith believes he is able to contribute so much offensively because he has been mindful of his defensive gap.
“Part of it is trying to have a good gap,” Keith said. “Defensemen talk a lot about gap, but I think when I have a good gap defending I’m on the play and I’m up on the play. It just ends up creating offense, loose pucks come to me and I can keep the puck in the zone better and I’m up on the play better. So I can not only defend better, but help create more offense.”
Keith’s numbers are similar to what he put up in 2009-10, when he won the Norris Trophy. He had 14 goals and 55 assists that season. He now has six goals and 51 assists with nine games remaining and is second to Erik Karlsson’s 69 points among defensemen this season.
Quenneville said Keith’s overall game is even better this season.
“I would say, yeah, I think he’s been at a better level on both sides of the puck, and obviously his production has been high end,” Quenneville said. “Defensively, him and [Brent Seabrook] have been an excellent pair for us. It’s been a real good year for him.”