Brent Seabrook had his ups and downs in this Western Conference semifinal series.
The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was struggling midway through the series against the Detroit Red Wings, playing just over 12 minutes in Game 4. He started getting back to his play and his usual bigger time-on-ice totals in Games 5 and 6.
But Seabrook couldn’t have completed his 180 any better than how he did it Wednesday night.
Seabrook scored the game-winning goal 3:35 into overtime, as the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings 2-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks, who trailed Detroit 3-1 in this series heading into Game 5, advanced to the Western Conference Finals where they will host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and Sunday.
For Seabrook, it was an exclamation point on a series that, for him, had some questions throughout. He was frustrated and admitted struggling with his game midway through the series. But he kept with it, and came through with a goal he’ll never forget.
“It was exciting. I don’t think I’ve scored a bigger goal than that,” Seabrook said. “With the Game 7 mentality, in overtime, against Detroit, it was pretty special. The boys fought hard all game. It was tough giving up that goal early in the third and we couldn’t grab another one. But we did a good job defensively; kept the puck out of our net. Corey [Crawford] did a great job giving us the opportunity to win.”
Coach Joel Quenneville, who reunited Seabrook with longtime defensive partner and friend Duncan Keith in Game 5, liked Seabrook’s response to it all.
“That was good for his game and confidence as well,” he said. “He played a real strong Game 5. That pair was solid as we went along. Our defense wasn’t a problem this series. But I think we got a little more offense on our back end when those guys got reunited.”
[RELATED: Seabrook reacts to scoring game-winning goal]
Game 7 was about taking advantage of an opportunity, especially when Niklas Hjalmarsson’s would-be go-ahead goal late in the third period was nullified by a referee’s whistle. Dave Bolland said he wasn’t surprised when Seabrook came through with a big goal.
“Half his goals, I think come against the Red Wings, most in OT. If you need a guy in OT against Detroit you put Seabs out there the whole time,” Bolland said with a grin. “You don’t come in here thinking things are going to happen and you’re going to be successful. We have to battle and play hard.”
Seabrook battled through some tough moments in this series. He got the ultimate vindication in the ultimate elimination game. Not a bad way to end one series and go into the next one.
“We had a tough couple games to start the series,” Seabrook said. “And we like the way we finished.”