Going into Game 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks’ series with the Detroit Red Wings, there were quite a few players whose lackluster performances had helped land the Hawks in a 3-1 hole. One of the biggest disappearances was that of defenseman Brent Seabrook, who had only played 12 minutes in the team’s Game 4 loss in the Motor City.
After that game, head coach Joel Quenneville opted to reunite Seabrook with a familiar face, putting him with defenseman Duncan Keith on the top pairing.
There were questions as to whether or not the move would be a good idea, considering the impact it could potentially have on Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who had gelled during the regular season. Those doubts proved fruitless, as the two looked positively excellent during that first game back, helping the Blackhawks coast to an easy win.
After two more solid games and a series-clinching goal in Game 7, it appeared that Seabrook was fully back to his old self. He was playing not only with palpable confidence on the ice, but he was also engaging in all of the areas of the game in which he excels. He was putting pressure on opponents with his offensive abilities, firing quality shots from the point to take advantage of netfront traffic, and also using his bruising physicality to wreak havoc in the neutral and defensive zones.
He has kept up that great play in the first two games of the team’s series with the Los Angeles Kings as well. In the two games, he has a goal (side note: are teams ever going to figure out that giving Seabrook a seam to skate and shoot through is a bad idea?), three shots on goal, 10 hits, and three blocked shots. It’s a very well-rounded stat line, and one that should fill Hawks fans with confidence.
There are a couple of things that Seabrook will need to keep an eye on as the series shifts to the West Coast. For one thing, he fell into the trap a few times, especially in Game 7 of the Wings series, of cycling the puck around the boards without a teammate to pick it up, and it led to a few turnovers. If the Kings are going to get back into the series, they are going to do so on the back of mistakes like that, with their physical mentality along the edges of the rink coming in handy in prying those pucks loose. Seabrook will need to be careful with zone exits, but has shown an ability to do that in the past two games.
He will also need to make sure that he isn’t taking himself off the ice with penalties. He committed a minor penalty in Game 2, and even though it didn’t end up costing the Hawks anything, it did give the Kings an opportunity to start the second period with a power play, and that could have been a momentum shifter for them.
With his size and strength, Seabrook is always going to be a prime target for the officials whenever he starts mixing it up with opponents, so he has to take extra care not to go too far. He is an important component of the team’s penalty killing unit, and taking himself off the ice in those situations doesn’t do the Hawks any good.