Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Seabrook leading through actions and words

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Blackhawks: Seabrook leading through actions and words

TAMPA, Fla. — Brent Seabrook had found his go-to line at Tuesday’s media day, and he was sticking to it.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I think that’s going to be the theme of my talking today: it’s been fun,” Seabrook said to laughs.

Seabrook, much like his long-time defensive partner Duncan Keith, isn’t one to talk about himself. Prompted to talk about his postseason game, the one in which he’s scored six goals and played strong minutes throughout, he gave the “it’s-fun” quote. But ask others, especially his Blackhawks teammates, and you get plenty of praise for a defenseman who’s had big moments on the ice and who isn’t afraid to have a big voice off it.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Toews blown away by high compliment from Yzerman]

“He’s one of those guys who says the right things, does the right things, on the bench as well. Over the course of meaningful games, big shifts, he seems to rise to the challenge,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve seen him come up with some clutch goals in overtime and regular season the same way. The bigger the games get, he responds. He’s had a nice playoff as well.”

Seabrook hasn’t saved the big moments, or big talks, for just this postseason. He did both in the Blackhawks’ second-round series against Detroit back in 2013. Midway through that series, he gave a frustrated Jonathan Toews a quick pep talk while the captain sat in the penalty box. In Game 7 of that series, Seabrook scored the overtime winner to send the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Final.

Patrick Sharp said he and teammates joke about Seabrook’s “superstitions and preparations. They haven’t changed since 2005.”

“He's pretty much got everything planned out from the time he wakes up to the time he plays the game. He's got an off day, a practice day and a game day. That's how he lives,” said Sharp. “I don't expect they will change for this series and I think that kind of pays off this time of year. In big games and overtimes, he sticks to what works.

"You mentioned leadership," Sharp continued. "A lot of guys in the room look up to him as a leader. He's always got a smile on his face and he's gotten a lot funnier over the years and makes everybody laugh, and one of the best teammates I've ever had.” 

[RELATED: Blackhawks: Kimmo Timonen hoping for another chance]

Kimmo Timonen, who played with Seabrook some this season, sees the same traits.

“I think he’s one of the bigger leaders on this team,” he said. “If you look at him before the game, what he says in the room, how energized he is, he’s a really good leader. The way he plays, he plays hard every game he wants to win. There are many leaders but he’s one of the biggest.”

And then there’s Seabrook’s shot, a cannon of an offering that’s gotten through at critical times. He scored the Blackhawks’ final goal of the Western Conference Final, a power-play goal that pretty much erased the Anaheim Ducks’ chances of coming back in that Game 7.

“Teams check so well now that it’s important that the defense help out offensively and Seabs has a great, heavy shot. You saw that in the first three rounds,” Keith said. “Just like Toews and [Patrick] Kane, he’s a guy who’s a big part of this team’s success. He’s a big reason why we’re going to the finals and, like I said, his passion and commitment and the will to get it done is what stands out.”

[NBC SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

Seabrook has been a big reason why the Blackhawks have gone to the Stanley Cup Final three times in the past six seasons. He’s gone from part of the team’s rebuilding process to a key part of their leadership group, even if he doesn’t have a letter on his sweater. He’s fueled by his family, which will be growing soon. He’s also fueled by the game, which continues to be a blast.

“I’ve got a kid now, another one on the way, so it’s been fun to see him at the games. And being able to share this with my wife and son is cool. To be able to do that and just be with the guys, you do appreciate it a lot more. It doesn’t go by as fast,” Seabrook said. “They’re all grinds, they’re all tough. But I’ve been here with the same group for three times and it’s been fun sharing the moments, the ups and downs and battles with these guys.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.