The Chicago Blackhawks did what was necessary in the wake of Brent Seabrook’s three-game suspension.
They brought in Sheldon Brookbank and looked for him to play solid minutes. They asked for a little bit more from their remaining defensemen.
They got the desired results. Now, with a chance to advance to the second round, they’re getting Seabrook back.
Seabrook is expected to play on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of their first-round series. Seabrook, who had a goal and an assist in Games 1 and 2 before his suspension-drawing hit on Blues captain David Backes, was not made available at Saturday’s presser. Teammates, however, talked of how they’re ready for Seabrook to return.
“Seabs is one of the steadiest D-men, I think, in this league; and pretty underrated, too,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “You don’t hear him too much around the Norris Trophy talks and things like that. I think Seabs is definitely one of the best players in this league and what he brings to our team every night is huge. It’s obviously going to be huge for us to get him back.”
In Seabrook’s absence, the Blackhawks defensemen carried on just fine. Brookbank soaked up minutes, playing anywhere from 14:32 to 19:41 over the last three games. He also finished plus-1 and had an assist in each of those contests. Hjalmarsson said Brookbank’s ability to come in cold and play well was key.
“As a defenseman it’s pretty hard to be out for a couple of games and then come back in, especially in the playoffs and with the way this series has been. He’s been doing a superb job coming in the lineup for Seabs,” Hjalmarsson said. “When it’s (Brookbank’s) night to play, he’s always solid back there. It’s a good feeling to know that you have those types of players who can come in and you don’t really notice that someone’s out of the lineup too much.”
Brookbank’s play also meant other defensemen weren’t terribly overtaxed. Yes, Duncan Keith and Hjalmarsson logged high minutes – Keith played just over 29 minutes in Game 5 and Hjalmarsson nearly played that in Game 4. Hjalmarsson also took his usual shot-blocking lumps. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t worried about either of them.
“Duncs, he can play big minutes; whether he gets up to 30 or high 20s, it doesn't really affect him going forward and I think he likes to play even more than that, so I think he's fine,” Quenneville said. “(Hjalmarsson), I don't think his minutes are too bad either. I think he's smart and efficient as far as his movement around the rink and he’s safe and reliable. I think we'd still like to see our D get more involved in the attack and I think (Seabrook) can add that dimension getting back into the lineup."
The Blackhawks did just fine in Seabrook’s absence. Now they’ll see if he can give them a boost when he returns.