“What are you thinking about?”
Jonathan Toews thought he answered that question from friend, teammate and early career roommate Brent Seabrook, until he looked at the Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman and realized he hadn’t given the desired response.
“What are you thinking about?”
“He looked at me again and I realized what he wanted me to say, and I snapped back and said, ‘Scoring goals,’” Toews said.
In Game 4, the thought turned to reality for Toews, who scored his second goal of the postseason, a moment that drew an inner “Finally” from him. For Toews, Seabrook’s pep talk was beneficial. And while those types of leadership stories starring Seabrook aren’t shared often, the Blackhawks say Seabrook displays that type of leadership very often.
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Seabrook once again came through with the big goal on Wednesday night, the game-winner that helped the Blackhawks tie their Stanley Cup Final series with Boston at 2-2. Those clutch performances have again become part of Seabrook’s game, which he admits wasn’t where it needed to be early this postseason. But taking a leadership role has apparently never been a problem.
“He always has,” Toews said. “He’s probably one of the louder guys before the game in the locker room, in between periods. He's always getting the guys going. I think that's part of his ritual to get himself going, that he wants to be vocally involved and just get that positive feeling, that excited feeling going for the boys. Obviously he's tried to do the same for me. It was a big night for the two of us last night.”
Seabrook’s been there before for Toews – he calmed the captain down during a multi-penalty flurry in a second-round game against Detroit. But he’s one more core leader for this team in general; a player who is soft-spoken to the media but apparently can raise the decibels inside that locker room.
“He's one of the guys that doesn't wear a letter but he's definitely a big part of our leadership group,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Even at a young age here, five years going back, he was probably the one voice that you heard a lot in the locker room and probably the most on the bench or around even practice or game time or preparing between periods.”
Seabrook’s play has elevated throughout the postseason. Struggling through the Minnesota series and the first part of the Detroit one, Quenneville re-paired Seabrook with longtime defensive partner Duncan Keith. It worked; besides the minutes going back up, Seabrook scored another big-game winner, the Game 7 overtime clincher vs. the Red Wings.
“I think he got excited about getting back playing with Duncan and getting more ice time,” Quenneville said. “And I think his game responded accordingly.”
As for his penchant for big goals lately, Seabrook just said it was a byproduct of firing away.
“You know, I've just been shooting the puck to be completely honest,” he said. “You get a chance, you get a lane and you try and put it on net, and they've gone in. I don't think I've got ice in my veins or anything like that. I'm just playing a game.”
[WATCH: All 11 goals in Game 4]
And the longer the game goes, that seems to help as well.
“I love overtime,” he said. “I think it's such a great part of the game, especially in the playoffs when you play until one team scores. I think it's such an exciting part of the game.”
Seabrook got the answer he was looking for from Toews. In turn, Toews got the results he was looking for from himself. Seabrook’s game has gotten back on track. His leadership and voice, be it with Toews or anyone else, has always been there.
“I think he’s the one guy who usually says, or you hear him, the most,” Quenneville said. “He always says the right things, and he's a great teammate, a great competitor.”