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.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”