Our Pledge To You

News

Brent Seabrook putting booming shot to good use this season

The garage door at Brent Seabrook’s childhood home in British Columbia was a pockmarked mess, chewed up and bruised, dotted with holes and dents. Day after day, slap shot after slap shot, Brent and his younger brother, Keith, battered the poor thing until it was Swiss cheese.

When it came time to sell the house, Brent, Keith and their dad, Gary, had to plaster over every hole and try to salvage a little curb appeal. They were happy to do it — yes, even Dad.

“My dad didn’t care, because it meant we had a hard shot,” Brent said. “Then the second house I lived in as a kid, we popped a lot of holes in that one, too.”

Plenty of NHL goalies know the feeling.

With three playoff overtime goals and a heavy, powerful slapper, Seabrook is the Blackhawks’ Mr. Big Shot, figuratively and literally. No Hawks player has a harder shot, and few in the entire league do; he was clocked at 98.6 mph during the All-Star skills competition in January, fourth-best in the contest. When the 6-3, 220-pounder winds up at the point or in the slot, it’s likely to end up painful for the competition — either in the form of a goal, an assist, or a massive welt.

“Seabs has that really big shot, so any time you’re in the zone, you want to get him the pick,” said Seabrook’s defensive partner, Trevor van Riemsdyk. [In San Jose last week], you saw he just blew it right by the goalie before he could even get set. He’s obviously an unbelievable defenseman, and putting up quite a few points this year.”

Indeed, the Hawks are feeding the beast whenever possible this season. Seabrook is sixth in the NHL among defensemen with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 26 games, on pace to threaten his career-high of 48 points set in 2010-11.

The trade that sent Patrick Sharp to Dallas over the summer opened up the right point on the Hawks’ top power-play unit, and Seabrook has been a perfect fit, winging one-timers off Patrick Kane feeds with reckless abandon. Three of his goals and eight of his assists have come on the Hawks’ red-hot power play, which has scored a goal in 10 of the last 12 games.

“He’s always had that big shot,” longtime teammate Duncan Keith said. “And we’ve seen him score big goals in the playoffs in overtime games with that slap shot. His shot is so effective, and hard, and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s very accurate with his one-timer, getting it on net. Now he’s been on that right side where Sharpie was before, and he’s getting a lot more opportunities to use it.”

Seabrook’s eagerness to shoot has been a welcome change of pace on a power-play unit that has struggled in recent years in large part because it was too passive. Seabrook doesn’t make the extra pass, doesn’t look for the pretty play. See puck, shoot puck.

The Hawks were 20th in the league last year with a 17.6 percent conversion rate on the power play. They’re currently seventh, at 22.4 percent.

“I like the fact that he’s not afraid to shoot, and he’s not thinking about making a play when he’s in that position,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Just keep shooting. We like it.”

When Seabrook winds and fires, either at the point or in the slot, he’s not necessarily looking to score. He’s just looking to create some havoc in front of the net, the puck pinballing off goalies and defensemen and generating second chances for Hawks forwards. The sheer violence with which Seabrook hits the puck makes it particularly tough to smother on the first try, and by keeping it low, it tends to bounce off pads rather than get swallowed up by a goalie’s glove.

“I’ve worked a lot on trying to get my shots through,” Seabrook said. “The main thing for me is just trying to get it past the first guy, and whatever happens after that, happens after that.”

Usually, what happens is a lot of damage — to garage doors, to sticks (an unscientific poll of Hawks players made it clear that nobody breaks more sticks than Seabrook), and to opposing goalies.

“When you give him a chance at the blue line, or even in the lower slot, he doesn’t miss too often,” Jonathan Toews said. “And whether he scores or not, something’s going to happen off his shot.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus