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Ex-Blackhawk Troy Brouwer cross-checks all the boxes for Blues

Troy Brouwer flattens Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw after Duncan Keith scored off Shaw's assist to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead over the Blues in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday night at the United Center. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Troy Brouwer has fond memories of winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010. “Just how close we were as a group of guys,” the Blues forward said.

But that bond is suspended when he hits the ice. Brouwer has been a physical presence in the Blackhawks-Blues series, with a couple of cheap shots that come with the territory in playoff hockey — including a cross-check of unsuspecting former teammate and long-time friend Brent Seabrook in front of the Blues net on Andrew Shaw’s tie-breaking goal in Game 2.

“At that point I’m just hitting another player and trying to finish my checks and do what’s going to help my team win,” Brouwer said when asked about cross-checking Seabrook. “We can worry about friendships over beers in the summer.”

There is no room for pleasantries in the playoffs, so Brouwer and Seabrook have not chatted about that play or the series in general, Brouwer said. But he doesn’t expect any repercussions. It’s playoff hockey.

“I hope he would just accept it as playing the game and playing hard,” Brouwer said. “He’s going to play hard and do the same thing to me, whether it’s slashes, cross-checks, finishing your check. There’s a lot of things that go on throughout the course of a playoff series. It’s business. They’re trying to win just as much as we are.”

Seabrook didn’t appeared thrilled with the play, but knows all too well the reality of playoff hockey. His illegal hit on David Backes in 2014 drew a three-game suspension.

“I know who did it. You see the replay,” Seabrook said of the Brouwer cross-check. “During the game it’s not something you’re looking for. You’re going to the net. You’re expecting to get pumped and pushed and banged around in there. It’s all a part of playoff hockey and that’s where all the goals are being scored.”

Brouwer added another cross-check on Andrew Shaw late in Game 4 that probably didn’t help Shaw’s demeanor at the end of that game. But being physical and doing the little things is part of Brouwer’s game. It helped the Hawks win in 2010. It might help them lose this time.

“He’s a big, scary guy,” teammate Kevin Shattenkirk said, of the 6-3, 215-pound Brouwer. “I remember playing against him — he was a guy who bugged me all the time. When he hits you, you feel it. He’s making sure that he’s showing that to [the Blackhawks], that this is a playoff series and winning in the first priority.”

It should be nothing new to the Hawks. “He was a younger guy [in 2010],” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s evolved into a nice player since then.”

Brouwer scored 49 goals and 102 points in three full seasons with the Hawks from 2008-09 to 2010-11. He scored 22 goals and 40 points in the regular season in 2009-10. He added four goals and eight points in 19 playoff games.

“I haven’t changed my game,” said Brouwer, a seventh-round draft pick by the Hawks in 2004. “Last year in Washington, I played the same hard style in the playoffs — trying to finish my checks and make sure that I’m tough on other teams and trying to win hockey games.”

Brouwer, who was acquired in the offseason from the Capitals in a trade for T.J. Oshie, is the only player on the Blues who has won a Stanley Cup. That experience has been valuable all season and even more so in the playoffs on a team that has been eliminated in the first round the past three seasons.

“The thing I’ve noticed, especially this series,” teammate Kevin Shattenkirk said, “is how he makes great plays under pressure when the game’s starting to ramp up or the momentum’s starting to swing away from us. He seems to be the guy that can make the great little play and do that little thing that just settles everyone down.

“And he’s a tremendous voice in the locker room. He knows how to calm guys down on the bench and in the locker room and get us back to playing the right way.”

Brouwer scored 18 goals and 39 points in the regular season. He was the only Blues play to play in all 82 games. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Brouwer was even more valuable off the ice.

“His experience on the off days in the regular season when we have adversity really helped us,” Hitchcock said. “He kept everybody focused, kept everybody looking at the big picture. That’s what experienced players that have been through the war before help you with. It’s not on days of games, it’s on off days. They really keep an even keel about your team and it’s very very helpful. It’s almost like having a coach in the locker room.”

Brouwer said he was closest to Dustin Byfuglien and Colin Fraser on the Hawks and has known Seabrook since they were kids growing up in the Vancouver area. He still keeps in touch with his former teammates as best he can. It’s tough enough during the season, and the dynamic of a competitive playoff series leaves little room for chit-chat.

“I always talk to the guys,” Brouwer said. “I haven’t gone for supper with them. They had their mother’s trip. We played a couple of back-to-backs against them. So we haven’t had a lot of time to hang out. But my wife’s still friends with a couple of the girls over there. I’m still friends with a lot of the guys.

“Whenever you win together you’re going to share that bond forever. I haven’t talked to them much throughout the course of the playoffs series. I’m assuming both sides want to keep it very business-like until it’s over.”