CHICAGO — When people look back on the Blackhawks’ 2013 playoffs, Brent Seabrook’s overtime goals are likely to be the first things remembered. But his off-ice contributions, specifically his counsel/prodding of captain Jonathan Toews, may prove to be just as important.
Seabrook’s OT goal in Wednesday night’s 6-5 victory over the Bruins leveled the Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece. Yet it was a discussion with Toews at a Boston bar that turned the tide of the series.
Following Game 3, Seabrook, who has played with Toews for six seasons, decided he needed to approach the team’s leader, who had scored all of one goal in the playoffs. There had been plenty of talk that Toews was playing well, just having a streak of bad luck.
Seabrook saw it differently.
“I was sick and tired of hearing everybody talk about everything that Johnny is doing right,” Seabrook said Thursday. “He’s a great player. He’s one of the best in the league. And I just told him that he’s got to stop thinking about that, too. He’s got to stop thinking about everything that he’s doing right and start worrying about not scoring goals for us. He has to score goals for us.”
Toews responded Wednesday with a tip-in on a shot from defenseman Michal Rozsival at 6:33 in the second period, and the reunited line of Toews, Patrick Kane, and Bryan Bickell was on the ice for three of Chicago’s goals.
Toews was quick to point out that Seabrook was not being nasty when they talked, simply it was a reminder that it was time to get going.
“He just asked me, ‘What are you thinking about,’ ” Toews said. “I was like, ‘Nothing, what are you thinking about?’ And he looked at me again and I realized what he wanted me to say, and I snapped back and said, ‘scoring goals.’ ”
It wasn’t the first time in these playoffs Seabrook has had to mentor Toews.
Chicago was on the brink of elimination when it fell behind, three games to one, to Detroit in the second round. To symbolize the team’s frustration in Game 4, the usually stoic Toews picked up three penalties in one period. It was Seabrook who calmed him down. The series turned, and the Blackhawks notched three straight wins, capped by an overtime goal in Game 7 by, of all people, Seabrook.
Wednesday’s winner marked another peak in a playoff run that has been quite the odyssey for Seabrook. There have been the highs of the game-winning goals, but also some lows, with coach Joel Quenneville’s reducing his playing time in the Detroit series and separating him from Duncan Keith; they have formed Chicago’s top defense pairing for years.
Eventually, Seabrook’s play turned around enough to convince Quenneville to put him back with Keith, and the coach was praising Seabrook’s efforts Thursday, in all facets of the game, especially when it comes to advising his many younger teammates.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s one of the guys that doesn’t wear a letter but he’s definitely a big part of our leadership group,” Quenneville said. “I think he got excited about getting back playing with Duncan and getting more ice time, and I think his game responded accordingly.”
As for his overtime goals, Seabrook could not come up with a reason for his success in extra periods, but cherishes the opportunity to play in those situations.
“You get a chance, you get a lane, and you try and put it on net, and they’ve gone in,” Seabrook said. “I grew up loving [overtime], and just to be able to get opportunities and play in games like that, they’re a lot of fun, and everything is right on the line. I think I definitely try and raise my game in overtime and try and be better.”