Blackhawks

Brent Seabrook a steady presence for Blackhawks once again

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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.”

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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.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

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AP

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.