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Seabrook having historic postseason for Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO – The answers from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook were just as expected when asked Sunday about his individual accomplishments piling up in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Brent Seabrook
Defense - CHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 11
SOG: 37 | +/-: 5
Seabrook’s goal at 3:38 of the third period in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on Saturday tied it 3-3, and set a new Blackhawks record for goals by a defenseman in a playoff with seven, which moved him past Chris Chelios. It was the 19th postseason goal of his career. He's now tied with Bob Murray and Doug Wilson for first in that category.

Seabrook wasn’t aware of those numbers before sitting down with reporters at United Center and wasn’t curious where he ranked.

"I'm not here to make personal gains," Seabrook said. "We're here to win a Stanley Cup. That's what our team's focused on. We're in a great spot. It's the best time of the year. We're looking forward to coming out and playing a good game [Monday] night."

Seabrook might not care all that much, but he's having his best postseason for the Blackhawks, who are tied 1-1 with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 series and play Game 3 at United Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Seabrook has scored at least one goal in all four rounds, and has scored in some key moments to either put Chicago in front or tie games.

He scored the game-winning goal at 1:00 of the third overtime to win Game 4 in the first round against the Nashville Predators 3-2, giving Chicago a 3-1 series lead, and scored three goals in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. It was also Seabrook’s shot from the right point in Game 2 against the Ducks that led to center Marcus Kruger’s goal at 16:12 of triple overtime to win 3-2.

"He always has a knack for scoring overtime winners or goals like we scored [Saturday] night," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I feel like you give him the puck in a great situation, where he might have a good shot through traffic, he doesn't miss a whole lot of them. I gave him that puck [in Game 2], [and] I just had a great feeling he was going to score. Sure enough, he did."

Seabrook and Chicago’s other top-four defensemen are all logging high minutes this postseason. It was notable during the first two rounds, when the Blackhawks leaned heavily on their top five defensemen, but became a closely monitored situation after veteran Michal Rozsival sustained a season-ending ankle fracture in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild, a 4-3 win to clinch the series.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville played his top-four defensemen roughly 85 percent of the time in the conference final, and has played them almost 90 percent of the time in the first two games of the Cup Final. Seabrook nearly did the unthinkable in Game 2 on Saturday by playing 28:43, almost matching the tireless Duncan Keith’s 28:52 that led all skaters.

Despite the big spike in workload, Seabrook’s play hasn’t dipped much, if at all.

"I think he's had an outstanding [playoffs]," Quenneville said. "Each series, each round, I think there's progression. He really seems to rise to the big moments in these games. I think he's a real presence."

It helps when Seabrook pulls the trigger on his powerful slap shot. He played all 82 games in the regular season and averaged 4.6 shot attempts per game, but is averaging 6.0 shot attempts per game through Chicago’s first 19 playoff games. His 18.9 shooting percentage in the postseason is also significantly higher than the 4.4 percent he had in the regular season.

"He's been playing great hockey all around, but when he gets the opportunities, [he] makes sure he gets his shots through," Toews said. "He has his head up. At the end of the day, we're going to get something off of the offense he's getting. He's been dangerous in a lot of ways for us."

It’s not limited to the offensive end of the rink, either. Seabrook, who turned 30 in April, is also utilizing his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame to prevent goals.

"I think defensively, he's defending with a real physical presence to him," Quenneville said. "I think he's getting up in the play. He's been very noticeable as the playoffs and this series has gone on in a short time. He's a big factor, [and] having a real good playoff."

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