Brent Seabrook has never been known for scoring dazzling highlight-reel goals. But his overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals provided Chicago Blackhawks fans with a highlight they'll be replaying for years.
It all started with space, probably more space than the defenseman is used to when he carries the puck into the opponent's territory. With only Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall between him and goaltender Jimmy Howard, Seabrook kept it simple, merely trying to get a shot on net. In wristing the puck towards Howard, Seabrook didn't just use Kronwall as a screen, but the puck actually hit Kronwall's skate, causing it to flutter past Howard. Game over: Hawks advance.
"I had a lot of room. I didn't know what to do with all that room. I just shot it," Seabrook said after Game 7. "Tried to get it past Kronwall. Anything can happen. I think it went off him and went in, luckily."
Seabrook wasn't supposed to play the hero in this series. Not after he saw his ice time sliced in half during Game 4. Not after Chicago fell behind 3-1 in the series. And definitely not after Seabrook's teammate, Niklas Hjalmarsson, appeared to give Chicago a 2-1 lead when he beat Howard with less than two minutes remaining in the third period. But the goal was waved off after referee Stephen Walkom called offsetting penalties to Brandon Saad and Kyle Quincey just before the apparent goal.
Despite the lost opportunity, Chicago came out motivated for the extra period.
"It was frustrating at the time, we thought we should have won that game," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But that wasn't going to faze us. We were still focused on what we had to do going into the overtime period. We showed that and [Seabrook] scored a big one."
"Big one" may have been an understatement. Seabrook's series-clinching tally scored 3:35 into overtime sent United Center into an absolute frenzy. And as he was mobbed by his teammates, television replays caught Seabrook's face emerging from the scrum as he yelled in elation. It was a historic moment for a team that is returning to the Western Conference Final for the first time since it captured the Stanley Cup in 2010. And it's thanks in large part to a play that was all about basic hockey fundamentals.
"He kept going, going, going and put a little mustard on it and got a fortunate break. Good recognition by him," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I'm happy for [Seabrook]. [That's one of the] things we talk about all the time, put pucks at the net."