Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook

Changes lead to power-play success for Hawks

February, 14, 2015
Feb 14
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BlackhawksCal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane, who leads the league in points, has recently played on both power-play units.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can be quick on the trigger to change his lines when they’re not producing on a consistent basis.

He’s often been less aggressive about trying new personnel on the power play. But after witnessing the Blackhawks’ power play struggle in every facet against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, Quenneville finally decided something needed to be altered.

For one, Quenneville determined Patrick Kane, who leads the league in points, needed to be on the ice as much as possible and would play on both power-play units. Quenneville also wanted to keep together the line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on power plays. Saad’s role was changed to being the net-front presence. Finally, Brent Seabrook became the main point defenseman instead of Duncan Keith.

The sample size is still quite small, but the Blackhawks have liked the early returns. The Blackhawks have scored three power-play goals in the last two games. Aside from that obvious positive statistic, they’re also creating cleaner entries, having more offensive possession and attempting more shots.

Quenneville’s thought Kane’s additional ice time was the main factor for the power play's recent rise. The Blackhawks had 7:31 of power-play time against the New Jersey Devils on Friday, and Kane played a team-high 5:57 of it.

“I think what we did was basically Kaner was going to play out there for the whole power play,” Quenneville said. “It seems like since then it’s worked very well. We have the puck in the offensive zone almost exclusively on all units. The other unit almost doesn’t get on the ice.

“It’s a situation where whether it’s entries, whether it’s patience, play recognition, traffic, shooting the puck, it’s been a lot of good things and our entries have been good. Kaner is going so well right now. He deserves to stay out there for the two minutes. I think he’s been the difference.”

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Hawks honored to be voted into All-Star Game

January, 4, 2015
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews recently glanced at the number of votes he and his teammates were receiving for the All-Star Game.

Toews had been voted for about a million times when he looked at it. When he discovered Sunday he ended up with more than 1.2 million, he was even more impressed.

“That’s a lot of votes, I guess, eh?” Toews said.

The Blackhawks said Sunday they were honored and humbled to have five of their players -- Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford -- voted into the All-Star Game. The Blackhawks filled five of the six spots in the balloting. Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was the lone non-Blackhawk to be voted into the game. The final tally was announced on Saturday night.

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Year in review: Best and worst of 2014

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
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Patrick Kane, Jonathan ToewsAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Hawks made sure their future will remain bright by re-signing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Chicago Blackhawks were going to have a difficult time matching 2013 no matter what they accomplished in 2014. The Blackhawks did come close to defending the Stanley Cup in 2014, but fell short of their goal. Recapturing the Cup is where the bar is set now, and anything less is a disappointment for the franchise and its fan base. The Blackhawks can be hopeful their success in the last few months of 2014 leads to another celebratory year in 2015.

BEST MOMENTS


5. Making their countries, Hawks proud: The Blackhawks were well-represented in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Ten Blackhawks were picked to play in Sochi: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp helped Canada won gold again, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya won silver medals with Sweden, and Michal Handzus (Slovakia), Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic) and Patrick Kane (U.S.) also participated in the Olympics.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonPatrick Kane added to his playoff legacy with a tie-breaking goal in Game 6 of the Western finals.
4. Outdoor fun: The Blackhawks hosted their second outdoor game, and this one went better than their loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Despite having to play through wind and snow, the Blackhawks skated around the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field on March 1. Jonathan Toews stole the show with two goals and an assist. Kris Versteeg became the first player to score at Wrigley Field and Solider Field.

3. Kane delivers again: Patrick Kane has had his share of special playoff goals. He added to them in 2014. One of his biggest of the year came in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings when he broke a 3-3 tie with a goal with 3:45 remaining in the third period. The Blackhawks won 4-3 and forced a Game 7. Altogether, he had four game-winning goals and 20 points in the playoffs last season.

2. Survive and advance: The Blackhawks were on the ropes after losing the first two games of the opening round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks needed someone to step up in Game 3, and Corey Crawford answered the call. Crawford denied all 34 shots he faced and the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-0 win. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought Game 3 was his team’s best game. Kane scored an overtime game-winner in Game 4. Toews scored an overtime game-winner in Game 5. The Blackhawks went on to win the series 4-2. The Blackhawks also took the Western Conference semifinals 4-2 over the Minnesota Wild.

1. Re-signing Kane and Toews: The Blackhawks may not have won the Stanley Cup in 2014, but they increased their chances of winning future Cups by re-signing Kane and Toews to identical eight-year, $84-million contracts. The contracts were Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s priority the last few years, and the deal was completed on July 9. Their extensions go into effect next season and they will be signed through the 2022-23 season.

WORST MOMENTS


5. Wakey, wakey: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was suspended three games after his elbow connected with Blues forward David Backes' head in Game 2 of their first-round series. Backes appeared dazed and was slow to get up after the hit, and a microphone caught someone say “Wakey, wakey” to him. None of the Blackhawks admitted to it. Backes missed two games with an upper-body injury.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks' Stanley Cup defense came to an end against the Kings thanks to Alec Martinez's game-winner in Game 7.
4. Second-half slump: The Blackhawks weren’t exactly cruising into the playoffs last season. They went 18-14-8 from Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season. They had three losing streaks of three games or more and just one winning streak of more than two games during that span. They finished in third place in the Central Division and had to start the playoffs on the road.

3. Quenneville fined: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was fined $25,000 for inappropriate conduct when he grabbed his groin area and yelled at the officials during Game 1 against the Blues. Quenneville apologized and described it as a stupid move. Fans had fun with the GIF of his action for some time.

2. Kane and Toews’ injuries: The Blackhawks finished the regular season without their top two players due to injuries last season. Kane missed the final 12 regular-season games after suffering a lower-body injury against the Blues on March 19. Toews endured an upper-body injury when he was hit into the boards against the Penguins on March 30. He sat out the final six regular-season games. The Blackhawks were also highly criticized for not retaliating against Brooks Orpik and the Penguins for the hit on Toews. The Blackhawks had been without Kane and Toews at the same time in just one game prior to last season.

1. Kings eliminate Blackhawks: The Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup defense and chance at back-to-back championships ended when the Los Angeles Kings' Alec Martinez scored a game-winning overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks had won six consecutive playoff series before falling to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Opposing power plays have been no match for Blackhawks' PK

December, 23, 2014
12/23/14
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Marian GaborikMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks have allowed just eight power-play goals in 95 opportunities this season.
CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane entertains his Chicago Blackhawks’ teammates by the different ways he’s able to put pucks inside opponents’ nets.

Kane’s teammates entertain him with the ways they keep opponents’ power plays from doing the same on the Blackhawks’ net.

“It’s fun to watch,” Kane said. “You’re confident when you take a penalty that it’s going to be killed off. They’re doing a great job.”

Great may not be a strong enough adjective for what the Blackhawks' penalty kill has been doing. Their penalty kill is headed toward becoming the NHL’s best of all time. The 2011-2012 New Jersey Devils hold the league’s regular-season record with an 89.6 penalty-killing percentage. The Blackhawks have a 91.6 percentage through 34 games.

Like Kane’s offensive game, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill can beat an opponent in a lot of different ways. They disrupt passing lanes. They’re aggressive when they need to be, but also hold back when the situation calls for it. They work together like an orchestra in a lot of ways. They possess depth with each forward and defenseman being as capable as the one they replaced. They’re not afraid to step in front of shots. It’s also helped their goaltenders have made saves when the puck has gotten through to the net.

Put it all together, and the Blackhawks’ penalty kill is difficult to score upon. The Blackhawks have allowed eight power-play goals in 95 opportunities this season. They have shut out opponents on the power play in 27-of-34 games. In December, the Blackhawks have killed off 23-of-25 penalties.

With the Blackhawks’ power play still lacking consistency -- it’s ranked 16th in the league with a 18.0 percentage -- it’s the penalty kill which has often come to the special teams' rescue, especially in close games. The Blackhawks have held their opponents without a power-play goal in six of their 11 one-goal wins this season.

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Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 5, Wild 3

December, 16, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild at the United Center on Tuesday.

How it happened: The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal on a power play with 4:28 remaining in the third period when his shot bounced off Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin's skate and traveled into the net. Chicago built a 3-1 lead after outscoring Minnesota 3-0 in the second period, but the Wild fought back and tied the game with consecutive goals in the third period. Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews accounted for the Blackhawks' first three goals. Ben Smith added an empty-net goal in the game's final minute. Thomas Vanek, Nino Niederreiter and Marco Scandella provided the Wild their goals. Chicago goaltender Antti Raanta stopped 26 of 29 shots in the win. Niklas Backstrom had 33 saves. The Blackhawks killed off all three of the Wild's power plays.

What it means: The Blackhawks extended their home winning streak to seven games. They have won 10 of their past 11 games and improved to 22-9-1, with a division-leading 45 points. Chicago also handed the Wild their first regulation loss in the Central Division this season. The Wild were 6-0-1 in the division heading into Tuesday night's game. The Wild fell to 19-12-1 on the season.

With the Blackhawks' No. 2 goaltender role still on the line, Raanta was up for the challenge again. He was solid throughout the night as Chicago improved to 7-1-0 since Corey Crawford's injury. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will have a difficult decision between Raanta and Scott Darling for Crawford's backup.

Player of the game: Toews had his second consecutive multi-point game. He had two primary assists in the Blackhawks' win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He has 12 goals and 16 assists in 32 games this season.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 21-8 in the second period.

What's next: The Blackhawks don't play again until Saturday when they travel to face the Columbus Blue Jackets.

By the numbers: The circus trip

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
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Los Angeles Kings loseJuan Ocampo/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks capped a 5-1 road trip with a victory over the Kings Saturday.


Here’s a look by the numbers at the Chicago Blackhawks' six-game circus road trip:

• The Blackhawks went 5-1-0 on the trip. They have gone 11-2-0 in the last two years on the circus trip and 27-12-4 since 2007.

Corey Crawford started every game on the trip. He stopped 143 of 154 shots for a .929 save percentage. He allowed two-or-less goals in four of the six games.

Patrick Kane had four goals and nine points on the trip. It matched his point total during last year’s circus trip when he had nine points in seven games. He has four multi-point games this season. He leads the team and is tied for 14th in the NHL with 23 points.

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Blackhawks' 20-game season review

November, 23, 2014
11/23/14
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Corey CrawfordJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford has played some of the best hockey of his career through the first 20 games.


The Chicago Blackhawks are almost a quarter of the way through the season after playing 20 games. Here are 15 things we have learned about them so far:

1. The Blackhawks don’t have an amazing record at 12-7-1, but it’s not bad considering their early scoring troubles and they are still right there among the Central Division leaders. They’re in third place in the Central behind the Nashville Predators (13-5-2, 28 points) and St. Louis Blues (13-6-1, 27 points). The Blackhawks are trending upward. They’re on their first three-game winning streak of the season and have won five of their last six games. One area they have already corrected from last season is their overtime/shootout record. They were 3-8 last year and are 4-1 this season.

2. The Blackhawks can still fill the net. They went through an unlucky stretch early in the season, when they were leading the league in shots but didn’t have the results to show for it. That’s changed in the last few weeks. Their shooting percentage is getting back to normal. They have scored 32 goals over the last eight games. They still lead the league in shots (36.7 per game) and their scoring average is up to 2.95, which is tied for seventh. Their shooting percentage is still a few percentage points below their average the last few years, so expect the goals average to increase some more over time. The Blackhawks were third in shots-per game (33.1) and second in goals-per-game (3.18) last season.

3. Corey Crawford is playing at an elite level. He has a 1.90 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 14 games. He ranks fifth in the league in save percentage. His start to the season is comparable to what he did in the shortened 2012-13 season, when he was consistent throughout the season and finished ranked sixth in the league in save percentage. It’s the only time he’s finished in the top 10 in save percentage. He has held opponents to two goals or less in 10 of his 14 games this season. He’s especially improved against the power play. He had a .864 power-play save percentage last season and it’s currently at .905.

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Quenneville sends message to Seabrook

November, 10, 2014
11/10/14
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Brent SeabrookDennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsBrent Seabrook played well on the third line Sunday night, recording a goal.


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook already knew his mistake of pinching in too far against the Washington Capitals last week cost his team a goal and was unacceptable.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville let Seabrook know he felt the same by demoting him to the third defenseman pairing and playing him a season-low 17:13 against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

“There are different ways to get guys’ attention,” Quenneville said after practice on Monday. “Everyone wants to play well and we want everyone to play well and we want to get the best out of everybody on a game-by-game basis.

“Sometimes you got to do things. You got to make tough decisions. You got to try whether it’s motivation, get their attention, whether it’s get more focus out of a guy, get him playing with more confidence. Whether it’s who’s your partner, quality ice time, there are different ways. But at the end of the day, we want everybody to be consistent and predictable, particularly defensemen.”

Seabrook said Monday he wasn’t surprised Quenneville switched up the defenseman pairings and separated him and Duncan Keith. Seabrook said Quenneville was the one to ask whether a message was being sent, but Seabrook admitted he wasn’t happy with his own play.

“You’re disappointed when you make plays like that,” Seabrook said. “I think I’ve been playing well. Some mistakes in my game, that’s obviously tough. I want to shore those up, but that’s that.

“Like I said the other day, I can’t make those mistakes. I’ve moved on.”

Quenneville liked how Seabrook responded to the change on Sunday. Seabrook scored a goal and was a plus-1 against the Sharks. He was a minus-4 Corsi in 5-on-5 situations.

“Thought he had a real good game last night,” Quenneville said. “He played very well in all aspects.”

Quenneville’s demotion may be short-lived. Quenneville said he could reunite Seabrook and Keith against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Keith and Seabrook played alongside each other throughout practice on Monday.

Seabrook has three goals and four assists and is a plus-1 in 15 games this season. He is averaging 21:40 of ice time, which is the third highest on the team.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 5, Sharks 2

November, 9, 2014
11/09/14
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CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at the United Center:
How it happened: The Blackhawks put themselves in a comfortable position by scoring the game’s first three goals. Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk tallied his first career NHL goal. That was followed by goals by defensemen Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which put the Blackhawks up 3-0 in the first period. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski trimmed that lead to one by scoring at the net in the first period and on a power play in the second period. The Sharks were pushing for the game-tying goal until Bryan Bickell scored with 4:42 remaining in the game to put the Hawks ahead 4-2. Jonathan Toews added an empty-net goal for the Blackhawks. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 32 saves on 36 shots. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 34 shots.

What it means: The Blackhawks snapped a three-game home losing streak. The Blackhawks looked like they were traveling down the same path as their latest game. They built a 2-0 lead on the Washington Capitals on Friday and lost 3-2 at home. The Blackhawks prevented that Sunday. They especially stepped up in the third period. The Blackhawks were due for the four even-strength goals they scored. They came into the game with a 5.0 shooting percentage in 5-on-5 situations. The Blackhawks improved to 8-6-1 on the season. The Sharks, who were coming off a win Saturday over the Dallas Stars, dropped to 8-6-2. Crawford held an opponent to two goals or fewer for the seventh time this season.

Player of the game: Van Riemsdyk scored his first career NHL goal and was also promoted to the Blackhawks’ top pairing with Duncan Keith.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks scored three goals within a 2:34 stretch of the first period.

What’s next: The Blackhawks continue their three-game home stand with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 2, Senators 1

October, 26, 2014
10/26/14
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CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday at the United Center:


How it happened: The Blackhawks put an end to their season-long second-period woes on their way to victory Sunday. The Blackhawks hadn’t scored a second-period goal in their first seven games. They scored two of them against the Senators. Jonathan Toews provided the first with a wraparound goal in a four-on-four situation 21 seconds into the second period. Brent Seabrook gave the Blackhawks a second when he scored on a power play at 13:38. Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling did the rest in his NHL debut: He stopped 32 of 33 shots. The Senators' lone goal came on a freak play on which the linesman interfered with a Blackhawks pass and led to a short-handed goal by Milan Michalek in the second period. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson stopped 43 of 45 shots.

What it means: The Blackhawks snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 5-2-1 on the season. The Blackhawks' five-on-five play again wasn't great, but they got the job done in other areas. The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in six of their eight games. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane recorded his 500th career point with an assist on Seabrook's goal. The Blackhawks killed all three of the Senators' power plays.

Player of the game: Darling, who is from the Chicago area, had a game to remember in his debut. He came up especially big with the Senators pushing for a goal to even the game in the third period. He made 16 saves in the third period.

Stat of the game: Fourteen penalties were called in the game.

What's next: The Blackhawks remain home and face the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

Hawks storylines (No. 15): Numbers game

September, 11, 2014
9/11/14
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ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers counts down the days to the opening of Blackhawks training camp on Sept. 19 with a look at 20 storylines facing the team this season.

Here are some numbers to keep in mind as the season unfolds for the Blackhawks (all statistics were found on stats.hockeyanalysis.com or behindthenet.ca):

Kane's production with teammates


Nearly every center who found his way onto the Blackhawks roster last season got a chance to skate with Patrick Kane. Some had more success than others. Andrew Shaw clicked with Kane, and Kane had seven goals, seven assists and a 59.7 Corsi percentage during 197:05 of 5-on-5 ice time with Shaw. On the other hand, Kane struggled with Michal Handzus with one goal, seven assists and a 50.9 Corsi percentage while on the ice 310:16 with the veteran center. Kane's line to start this season is expected to include Brandon Saad and Brad Richards. Kane had seven goals, nine assists and a 56.3 Corsi percentage with Saad.

Puck possession


The Blackhawks have been a dominant puck-possession team over the past five seasons. They have ranked in the league's top-6 in Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations throughout that span. They were second with a 55.5 percentage last season, their highest percentage since being at 56.5 percent during the 2009-10 season.

Morin's potential

Jeremy Morin played in just 24 games last season, so his sample size isn't that large. But in that short span, he was statistically impressive. Morin led the Blackhawks with an average of 12.22 shots per 60 minutes, 1.421 goals per 60 minutes and 3.13 points per 60 minutes. If Morin gets some consistent ice time and a larger role this season, which is something Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have mentioned, he may just be headed toward a breakout offensive season.

Defensive responsibility


One of the main reasons defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are often able to utilize their offensive abilities is because defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are given more of the defensive load. Oduya and Hjalmarsson started less in the offensive zone than any of the Blackhawks' defensemen last year. Oduya started 48.6 percent in the offensive zone and Hjalmarsson was at 48.3 percent. To compare, Keith started 56.4 percent in the offensive zone and Seabrook was at 56.3, and defensemen Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank all started more than 60 percent of the time in the offensive zone.

Goals against


The Blackhawks held opponents to just 1.77 goals per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 situations during the 2013 season, best in the league. But aside from that season the Blackhawks have been an average defense team in recent years. They ranked 26th in the NHL with a 2.52 goals-against average in 2010-11 season, 26th with a 2.49 goals-against average in the 2011-12 season and were 15th with a 2.23 goals-against average last season.

Toews & Sharp

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp made each other better players last season. They had a 59.7 Corsi percentage in their 777.32 of ice time together. When apart, Toews dropped to a 57.5 Corsi percentage and Sharp dropped to 52.9. There's a good chance Sharp, Toews and Marian Hossa could be together on the top line again this season.

Fourth-line usage

Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, the trio which was often the Blackhawks' fourth line last season, all ranked among the bottom seven players in the league in offensive zone start percentage. Bollig started in the offensive zone 11.4 percent, Kruger 13.4 percent and Smith 16.9. It will be interesting to see whether Quenneville uses his fourth line in such a defensive manner again. Kruger was on the fourth line the season before and saw more offensive zone starts. He was at 30.4 percent during the 2013 season.

Hawks player reviews: Brent Seabrook

June, 20, 2014
6/20/14
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Brent SeabrookAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBrent Seabrook had 41 points during the regular season, the second-most in his career.

Brent Seabrook, Defenseman


2013-14 cap hit: $5,800,000| Age: 29 | Season stats: 7 goals, 34 assists, plus-23

Season recap: Seabrook went through some ups and downs like most of the Blackhawks' defensemen this season. He had some good months early, but his play didn't remain at that level and was inconsistent in the playoffs. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville broke up Seabrook and Duncan Keith as a defensive pairing in the Western Conference finals.

Season highlight: Seabrook played some of his better hockey early in the season. He had 21 points and was a plus-20 in November and December.

Season lowlight: Seabrook was suspended three games for a hit on St. Louis Blues forward David Backes during the first round.

Final grade: B.

Inside the numbers: Seabrook was on the ice for 15 goals for and 15 goals against in 5-on-5 situations in the playoffs, according to extraskater.com. He ranked fourth on the team in goals for and third in goals against.

Notes: Seabrook's 41 regular-season points were the second most of his career. He had 48 points during the 2010-11 season.

Quotes: "I think it was a good year, all in all," Seabrook said after the season. "I think it's obviously not where we want to be today. We think we had a chance to win again, and we were right there. So I don't think as far as changes go, I don't think we need many. I think the guys have that taste in their mouth, that they want to get back to where we were last year, and I'm assuming everyone's going to go home and have a good summer and get refreshed and refocused for another long year next year. That's our goal every year, is to be there at the end. It starts now."

What's next: Seabrook continues to be in the Blackhawks' long-term plans. He has three more years remaining on his contract. He and Keith are expected to be paired again next season.

Hawks' defense part of reason for deficit

May, 27, 2014
5/27/14
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CHICAGO -- Blackhawks defensemen Michal Rozsival and Nick Leddy were caught watching as the Los Angeles KingsTanner Pearson jumped on a loose puck and fed Tyler Toffoli in the slot for a crucial goal in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Toffoli skated past Blackhawks defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson for a loose puck in Chicago's zone and scored to break a 2-2 tie in Game 3.

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith had the puck taken away from him by Kings forward Anze Kopitar, and defenseman Brent Seabrook was slow to get to the net to stop Marian Gaborik from scoring the second goal in Game 4.

While Chicago's penalty kill has been accountable for five goals in the past three games, that hasn’t been the Blackhawks’ only issue in their three consecutive losses, which have put them behind 3-1 in series. They also have had a few breakdowns they’re not accustomed to seeing from their defensemen.

“We’ve let in some uncharacteristic type of goals in this series that we probably haven’t seen all year or in the playoffs, for sure, that we think are preventable,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “We shore that up, and we’ll keep ourselves in the game and find a way.”

The Blackhawks allowed eight even-strength goals over the past three games. They had given up 21 even-strength goals over the first 13 playoff games. In the series, Oduya has been on the ice for six even-strength goals, Seabrook for four, Hjalmarsson for three, Rozsival for three, Leddy for two and Keith for one.

Not all of those goals were the defensemen's fault, but Seabrook said there’s definitely room for improvement on the back end.

“Absolutely, I think, like I said, I’ve got to be better,” Seabrook said Tuesday. “It doesn’t just start with the penalty kill. It’s in every facet of the game. I think we’ve all got to be out there doing things that are going to make us win a game, and I think some things happened last game that are uncharacteristic, but I’d say you’ve got to give L.A. credit. They’re forcing us into different situations, but we’ve got to be better and we will be better.”

Oduya and Hjalmarsson have had the best Corsi numbers (shot differential) among the defensemen despite starting in the defensive zone more than the others, according to extraskater.com. Oduya has a 57.0 Corsi percentage (the Blackhawks have 61 shots for and 46 against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series). He’s followed by Hjalmarsson (55.3 percent), Rozsival (50.5), Seabrook (50.0), Leddy (48.5) and Keith (47.8). Leddy and Rozsival start the most in the offensive zone.

Quenneville thought what it came down to was his defensemen needing to play better around their own net.

“I think where pucks going through us or not recognizing the coverage that’s around the net,” Quenneville said. “They got some guys that they make some blind plays. Around the net, they got quick sticks, and they got some good shooters as well. I think we got to make sure we’re going to be defending around our net better than they are at their net. It could be the difference.”

Kings get wish, hold Hawks under 3 goals

May, 21, 2014
5/21/14
11:50
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter set a limit of two goals for the Chicago Blackhawks entering the Western Conference finals.

If the Kings could keep the Blackhawks under three scores in a given game, Sutter liked his team’s chances against the defending Stanley Cup champs. More than two, he didn’t like the Kings’ odds.

Sutter has been dead on so far. The Blackhawks scored three goals in Game 1 and won. The Blackhawks scored two goals in Game 2 and lost 6-2 Wednesday night.

“We probably played better [in Game 1],” Sutter said. “The only difference between tonight and [Sunday] was not goals for, it was goals against. Give up three against them, you're in trouble.”

[+] EnlargeNick Leddy and Blackhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks were stoked after dominating early. But they failed on several strong chances to extend a two-goal lead to three, and the Kings pounced after that.
The absence of that third goal Wednesday will have the Blackhawks shaking their heads for a few days. The chances were there for the third goal to put the Kings away.

The Blackhawks placed themselves in a comfortable position by going ahead 2-0, when Ben Smith scored 1:40 into the second period. But they didn’t back off. They kept pushing for another goal, and the Kings weren’t putting up much of a fight to stop them.

After their second goal, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa nearly scored on a shot from the slot after receiving a stretch pass to get him open with 13:23 remaining in the second period.

Michal Handzus had a wraparound backhanded shot with 6:19 left that gave Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick a problem.

Off an odd-man rush shortly later, Hossa left the puck for Duncan Keith at the blue line, and Keith fired a shot that Quick blocked. But the Kings were fortunate the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize on the rebound.

Of all the missed opportunities, the one that will bother the Blackhawks the most was a 2-on-1 rush. Kris Versteeg had the puck on the left wing, and Brent Seabrook was to his right. After Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell committed to Versteeg, he pushed the puck over to Seabrook, who fired it on net. Quick shifted quickly from left to right, filled the open space and denied the puck entry.

Quick kept the Kings in it, and they took advantage, as Justin Williams scored with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to cut the lead to one. From there, the game changed.

“That's what we need Quickie to do. He does it all the time, makes those big saves when we need him, and that's just a prime example of him being himself,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “That's a huge save for us, and from that point we got pucks to the net, put one in, and came in here down only 2-1, which is what we wanted.”


The Kings scored five more goals, all in the third period, and the Blackhawks didn’t score again.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thought the Kings’ one goal in the second period may have been more deadly than the lack of a third Blackhawks goal.

Quenneville described his team’s first 38 minutes of the game as perfect.

“Couple real nice looks there,” Quenneville said. “[Seabrook] coming down the pipe and it’s still 2-0 and we’re fine at 2-0. You get in after two [periods] and you’re up 2-0, it’s a different game maybe, but certainly it didn’t look ... The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year, where we’re doing everything right and then all of a sudden it was a disaster.”

The Blackhawks struggled to comprehend how a game they were dominating for nearly all of the first 40 minutes went against them. It's something they'll look to fix in Game 3 on Saturday.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We got off to a good start through 40 minutes. We were skating well and drew a few penalties, and then obviously things unraveled during the third.

“We’re not happy and we’re looking forward to getting on the plane and making up for it in Game 3.”

By the numbers: Hawks vs. Wild, Game 1

May, 3, 2014
5/03/14
11:17
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Here’s a look by the numbers at the Chicago Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their Western Conference second-round series:

" The Blackhawks scored two power-play goals. It was just the third time they scored multiple power-play goals in a game since Jan. 1. They scored a total of three power-play goals in six games against the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

" The Blackhawks killed off all three of the Wild’s power plays. The Blackhawks have been perfect on the penalty kill in five of seven playoff games this season. They’re 30-of-32 on the penalty kill in the playoffs overall.

" The Blackhawks and Wild were nearly even in shots with the game tied or within a goal. The Wild had a slight advantage in those situations as they had a 51 Corsi close percentage (shot differential with the game tied or within a goal in 5-on-5 situations.) The Wild had 25 shots, and the Blackhawks had 24. Corsi close is used to eliminate score effects.

" Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell each scored two goals. They have combined for 27 goals in 30 playoff games the past two seasons.

" Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 30-of-32 shots for a .938 save percentage. Since allowing four goals on 31 shots to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of their first-round series, he has made 156 saves on 164 shots for a .951 save percentage in the last five games. The Blackhawks have won all five of those games.

" Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 21 shots. He has stopped 55-of-67 shots for a .821 save percentage in the playoffs.

" The Wild had 12 players who had a Corsi percentage (shot differential) of better than 50 percent. The Blackhawks had six. Jonas Brodin led the Wild with a 73.7 Corsi percentage (the Wild had 14 shots for and five against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations).

" The Blackhawks’ fourth line had the team’s lowest Corsi percentage. Forwards Brandon Bollig, Michal Handzus and Joakim Nordstrom had an average 22.6 Corsi percentages (the Blackhawks had 4.3 shots for and 14.7 against with them on the ice).

" Bollig averaged nearly a hit a minute. He had seven hits and played 8:00 of ice time.

" Wild forward Zach Parise had a game-high six shots on goal. Kane led the Blackhawks with five shots on goal.

" Kane had a plus-2 rating. He leads the NHL with a plus-8 rating in the playoffs.

" Brent Seabrook picked up two more assists. He is tied for a team-leading eight points despite having missed three playoff games due to suspension.

" Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had a game-high 25:22 of ice time. Duncan Keith led the Blackhawks with 24:12 of ice time.

" Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews won 16 of 24 faceoffs. He’s won 99 of 160 faceoffs for a 61.9 percentage in the playoffs.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
64 27 37 10
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 27
AssistsP. Kane 37
+/-J. Toews 21
GAAC. Crawford 2.30