A three-game suspension to Brent Seabrook could easily have been a death sentence for the Chicago Blackhawks, but the play of Sheldon Brookbank in Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues is a big reason the team is still breathing, now down just 2-1 in the series.
Brookbank didn’t completely replace Seabrook’s role in the lineup; he only played 14:32, eight minutes shy of Seabrook’s average during the regular season. The extra minutes were also distributed among Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival. Still, it was Brookbank who filled the lion’s share of Seabrook’s skates, playing alongside Duncan Keith for nearly all of his shifts and matching up against some of St. Louis’ better players throughout the game.
The typically defensive-oriented Brookbank even managed to find his way onto the score sheet, registering an assist on the only goal of the game that didn’t involve an empty net. Usually rather weak along the offensive blue line in terms of keeping the puck in the opposition’s zone, Brookbank had several notable keep-ins that helped sustain Chicago pressure. He also wasn’t shy on the breakout, attempting several stretch passes — a core of the Blackhawks’ offensive philosophy — and connecting on a handful of them.
The Blackhawks are hardly expecting Brookbank to be a dynamic presence on the ice, but his ability to continue providing what he did in Game 3 could go a long way in prolonging this playoff series.