Brent Seabrook a steady presence for Blackhawks once again


Brent Seabrook a steady presence for Blackhawks once again

When the Blackhawks named Brent Seabrook alternate captain after Patrick Sharp was traded to Dallas, it was a no-brainer.

Yes, the Blackhawks have plenty of veterans who have shown leadership throughout these years. But Seabrook has displayed it often — his penalty-box pep talk with Jonathan Toews in the 2013 postseason is still a memorable moment — and he wore that “A” whenever another alternate captain was missing.

And Seabrook taking the lead, be it on or off the ice, has continued this season.

The Blackhawks have gone through changes and weathered injuries to defensemen. Throughout it all, Seabrook’s been a steady, reliable player for the Blackhawks. He picked up the slack in Duncan Keith’s absence and is third overall on the team in points with 19 (five goals, 14 assists). There’s been the random gaffe, certainly; nobody’s perfect. But overall, Seabrook’s game has been strong.

“I think it’s gone well,” Seabrook said of his season thus far. “I try to do what I can and help out when I can. Obviously when Dunc was out there was a little more emphasis on the overall game, trying to produce offense and be real good defensively. To be honest, it’s really how I’ve always tried to play. Nothing’s really changed. With Dunc being out, maybe more opportunity to play on that power play and get some good looks, things like that.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks Mailbag: How long could Kane's point streak go?]

Seabrook has also been a good influence on defensive partner Trevor van Riemsdyk.

“He’s putting up quite a few points this year, but that doesn’t change how he plays defensively,” van Riemsdyk said. “He’s solid, shutting down plays, taking on guys 1-on-1, whatever it may be.”

There have been times in the past where Seabrook looked hesitant to shoot. He hasn’t looked like that this year. Perhaps in Keith’s absence, he was determined to shoot more, and obviously it’s led to good things. Coach Joel Quenneville joked that Seabrook would have a lot more points if not for the defenseman breaking so many sticks this year. But he’s nevertheless taking advantage of that heavy shot he possesses.

“He’s getting his shot through and thinking one-timers,” Quenneville said. “He’s got that dimension to his shot where it can beat a goalie with how hard he shoots it and he’s not afraid to use it, which is what we’re looking for.”

Trevor Daley said Seabrook’s patience benefits him.

“He’s always in the right spot and makes the right plays,” Daley said. “He’s not the most flashy guy, but he has an unbelievable shot and he knows how to get it off. That’s what all (defensemen) try to do, get shots off, and he’s probably one of the best I’ve seen at it.”

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The Blackhawks made it clear they wanted Seabrook here for the long haul in September, when they signed him to an eight-year extension. For Seabrook, it was a relief to get the deal done when they did; Seabrook’s last contract, a five-year extension, wasn’t agreed upon until February of 2011.

“At the end of the summer was, I’m not going to say (it was) stressful, but I was thinking about that a lot,” Seabrook said. “It’s a huge honor to have the faith from those guys that I can do the job, and I’m looking forward to continuing to get better. It’s something that’s nice; I don’t have to worry about it. I can go out and play my game and know that I’m going to be here for the next eight or nine years if I do my job.”

Seabrook’s done his job well throughout his Blackhawks career. He has three Stanley Cups and a letter on his jersey to prove it. Despite roster changes or whether the team is in sickness or health, Seabrook’s been the steady presence the Blackhawks have needed.

“He was a big part of those quality minutes or important shifts without Duncs and leadership on the back end; stability as well with young kids. He got us through a tough spot,” Quenneville said. “He’s given us predictable minutes, defensively, offensively. He’s really helping our power play and shooting the puck as well as we’ve ever seen him.”

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: