There’s no doubt about the fact that when both of them are on their game, the Chicago Blackhawks boast one of the top defensive pairings in the National Hockey League, in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
With that pairing, the consensus has always been that Keith is the no. 1 defenseman, and rightfully so. He’s just two years off of a Norris Trophy season and is one of the better offensive defensemen in the league.
But in his own right, Seabrook has emerged as a guy that any team would be happy to have as a no. 1 on the blue line.
Seabrook’s point totals don’t jump off the page in the way that some elite defensemen throughout the NHL do, but he’s been quietly effective in Chicago the last couple of seasons. He has 82 points the last two years with the Hawks, including 34 this season. That’s just three off of what Keith has produced the last pair of seasons.
Obviously, there’s not a more physical defenseman on the Chicago blue line. Seabrook drops the boom at a fantastic rate, with over 400 hits the past two years, more than most blue liners in the league. His plus/minus is also among the best in the league, sitting at a plus-21 on the season.
With Keith enduring the struggles that he had in 2010-11, and for a good chunk of this year, Seabrook has brought stability to an otherwise shaky Chicago blue line, which was especially poor before the acquisition of Johnny Oduya. As the season has wore on, Seabrook has started to take the big minutes that were normally reserved for Keith, whether they’re at full strength, on the power play, or on the penalty kill.
It’s during these playoffs where we’ve really seen Seabrook absorb bigger minutes, and it’s mainly on special teams. In the first two games of their series against the Phoenix Coyotes, Seabrook has logged over nine minutes of power play time playing with the first unit, almost twice as much as Keith has played with the man advantage.
Though it’s not on paper like the other departments that Seabrook has emerged in, there’s no doubt he’s one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league. His size and his cool make him a welcome stable presence on an otherwise erratic blue line.
There’s a reason that some are wondering whether or not Seabrook has actually taken over as the no. 1 defenseman in Chicago. And there’s definitely a case to be made, given Keith’s inconsistencies and Seabrook’s steady increase in ice time. Even with that in mind, Seabrook gets far too little credit for what he brings to the blue line for the Blackhawks. I’d expect that to change soon.