Keith, Seabrook key Hawks' improvement

Corey Crawford earned his second consecutive shutout Wednesday night, but it wouldn't have been possible without Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Corey Crawford will steal most of the headlines following the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche, but he shouldn’t.

Yes, he’s been very good in earning back to back shutouts. But in terms of what this game means in the long term, the play of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook is the bigger story.

No team had them looking worse, in previous meetings, than the speedy Avalanche. But on Wednesday, they turned the tables, Keith and Seabrook were on the ice for all four Hawk goals and earning points in the process.

“From a personal standpoint, back in Colorado I didn’t play very well against these guys,” Seabrook said. “They lit me and my defense partner up pretty good there, so we wanted to come back and have a strong game against these guys.”

And a strong game they had. It started with a crucial penalty kill just minutes into the contest. With the Hawks giving up goals left and right while down a man, they needed a stop, if for nothing else to gain some confidence.

“I think so for sure,” Keith said. “It gave us the confidence, not allowing one. When it’s struggling you look for any little thing to build confidence off of.”

By the time they had to kill another one, later in the period, the Hawks were up 2-0 and playing relaxed.

“We made some strides tonight,” Seabrook said. “I still think we can be better. I don’t think it’s our best game as a tandem ever but I think it’s definitely a start. We played very well together, we used each other well, we used our forwards well.”

Keith liked the teamwork as well.

“It makes a big difference when we’re trying to look for passes when our centermen are in good supporting position and our wingers are getting the puck out at the blue line,” he said.

Coming off a monster year, the pair has been maligned for some of their defensive play. In three previous games against the Avalanche, Keith was on the ice for nine goals against, Seabrook for seven.

“They were excellent,” Joel Quenneville said. “When they’re at their best like they were tonight, it really enhances our team game. We were pleased with the two of them.”

And in either a sarcastic nod to the criticism or just because Keith was sitting next to him, Seabrook chimed,

“we were working as a five man unit tonight and more importantly Duncan and I were finally working as a group of two.”

Whatever the reasons, the Hawks need the pair to keep playing like they did against Colorado. One more game like this and they might finally be looking at a plus in front of a number instead of a minus. That’s a step in the right direction no one could criticize.