Blackhawks

How Brent Seabrook inspired Blackhawks at Day 1 of Phase 3 camp

How Brent Seabrook inspired Blackhawks at Day 1 of Phase 3 camp

Seeing Brent Seabrook skate with his teammates at the Blackhawks' start of Phase 3's training camp on Monday was an old familiar sight during a new unfamiliar time. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champion with a hard shot and a harder check last joined the Hawks at a morning skate on December 18 ahead of a game at the United Center against the Colorado Avalanche. He was a healthy scratch for the contest then stayed in Chicago to undergo medical evaluation when the team traveled to Winnipeg the next day.

The 35-year-old blueliner then underwent a right-shoulder surgery later in December and separate hip surgeries in January and February.

"Knowing what he's done and how much he's laid on the line for this team over the last decade or more, it's crazy to see how much he's been through and how much he's given to this team," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after Monday's practice. "So it's nice to see him get that opportunity to take care of himself and focus on himself for once because that guy always seems to put the team before himself no matter what."

Related: Corey Crawford misses Day 1 of training camp, deemed "unfit to play"

"He’s been through a lot," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He played hurt and that’s never easy. He’s proven he’s going to pay the price for the team to win and he’s gone through those surgeries and it’s been a difficult rehab for him, so happy to see him on the ice first and foremost. 

"It’s not going to be easy, but the act that he’s here and he can provide his experience and his presence in the group to the group, it’s a huge benefit for us. And then we’ll see. We have some time here for him to get skating again."

Seabrook and his thick, black beard fully participating in Day 1's practice sent an inspirational message to the Hawks according to his former D partner, two-time Norris trophy winner Duncan Keith.

"I know the surgeries that he had are not easy surgeries to overcome. That’s a testament to his drive and dedication - his commitment," Keith said. "I thought he looked good out there today. It’s been a long time since he’s played a game and to be back out here going full steam with the guys, he looked good. 

"But I think as a friend and teammate you want to make sure he’s smart. I know Brent is fully aware of his body and what he wants to do. Just let him do his thing and push it at his pace until he feels 100 percent. … To be joining the group in the middle of summer without a proper lead up to the training camp, that just shows the kind of character he has and the commitment. We all take note of that and it inspires all of us."

Related: Blackhawks camp: 4 takeaways from Day 1 of Phase 3

Toews noticed Seabrook was far from calling it quits early on after his procedures.

"Right away after his surgeries, I was really impressed at how quick he bounced back," Toews said. "He just seems to be so physically resilient. And maybe that's just something special about him that he can have three surgeries back to back to back like that and just kind of keep on trucking. 

"Been training with him before he went home to Canada for a little bit and just seeing him in the gym and seeing him on the ice, obviously the conditioning, that pop and that strength is really going to come back in his stride, but he just seems really healthy."

The Blackhawks finish their Phase 3 training camp on July 26 then head to Edmonton to take on the Oilers in a best-of-five play-in series in the NHL's 24-team playoffs under the Return To Play program.

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Blackhawks' Corey Crawford heating up just in time for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford heating up just in time for Stanley Cup Playoffs

The biggest storyline of Blackhawks training camp 2.0 was Corey Crawford missing the first 12 days because he had tested positive for COVID-19. He showed up on the final practice day in Chicago, which was exactly one week from the start of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Blackhawks did everything they could to get him ready for Game 1, but you knew it would take him a while to get back into top form. And it has.

In the first three games against the Oilers, Crawford allowed 13 goals on 92 shots for a save percentage of .859 and had a minus-5.68 goals saved above average, according to Natural Stat Trick, which ranked dead last among all goaltenders. 

But when the Blackhawks needed him most in Game 4, Crawford delivered. 

The two-time Stanley Cup champion turned aside 41 of 43 shots for a save percentage of .953 in Friday’s 3-2 series-clinching win against the Oilers, including all 18 in the third period, a handful of which came from high-danger areas.

"He's a huge part of our team and he played real well today," Dominik Kubalik said. "I thought he was our best player."

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

To take it a step further: Crawford stopped 16 of 18 shots from the slot and had nine saves from the inner slot, which is the third-most in a game by any goaltender this postseason, according to Sportlogiq. The Oilers had an expected goals for rate of 4.33 but scored only twice, which means Crawford saved the Blackhawks 2.33 goals.

It was a vintage performance between the pipes for No. 50.

"Obviously it wasn't the best scenario," Crawford said of having just one week to get ramped up for the qualifying round. "I would have liked to have had a few more weeks of practice and see more pucks coming into the series. But it is what it is. I think I felt way better each game, playing each game and just seeing different scenarios and situations. Once you get more of that, just the better you feel. Tonight was obviously better."

Despite turning in a terrific outing on Friday, Crawford admitted “there’s still some work to do” before he feels like in peak form. But if he gets there in time for the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks could be a dangerous underdog team.

"I was able to kind of hide back there until I started feeling comfortable," Crawford said. "Still don't think I'm at the top of my game, but it was definitely better today."

Podcast: Blackhawks move on with 3-2 series-clinching win over the Oilers

Podcast: Blackhawks move on with 3-2 series-clinching win over the Oilers

It's been 5 years since the Hawks have won a playoff series and it feels so good. Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks analyst Steve Konroyd as they discuss the series-clinching Game 4 win over the Oilers, the importance of the win, and a look ahead to what's next for the Hawks.

(1:10) - Hawks were given a lottery ticket into the playoffs this year

(6:41) - Hawks still need to fix a few things

(10:00) - Jeremy Colliton tried 2 different lines with Kane in the series

(15:30) - The young players on the Hawks stepped up big this series

(18:48) - How do the Hawks match up against the Vegas Knights and Colorado Avalanche?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.