Seabrook's series comes full circle

CHICAGO -- No Chicago Blackhawks player rode the roller coaster of the seven-game series with the Detroit Red Wings more than defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Seabrook experienced the lowest of lows and the highest of highs all within seven games. He went from having his role diminished and his minutes cut substantially to being reunited with old defensive partner Duncan Keith and having his role re-established to finally being the team's hero in the most important game of its season.

On Wednesday, in overtime of Game 7, Seabrook fired the puck into the right corner of the net past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard for the game-winning and series-clinching goal, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 win and a trip to the Western Conference finals.

"I'm a defenseman; when I have that much room, I usually screw up, trip or fall or something like that," Seabrook said. "But [Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville] harps on it all the time, put pucks on the net, anything can happen."

Joking about his goal-scoring ways while surrounded by dozens of reporters is a long way from where Seabrook was earlier in the series, when he was reluctant to answer questions about playing a season-low 12:03 in Game 4 while being surrounded by dozens of reporters.

After Game 7, Seabrook talked about how hard his team fought to overcome the adversity of being down 3-1 in the series, but he might as well have been talking about himself.

"We're resilient," Seabrook said. "I don't think we played as well as we could have in the Minnesota [Wild first-round] series. I don't think we played very well in the first four games against Detroit. Give Detroit credit. They played us hard. They played tough and took us out of our element. But we've got to fight through that. Games 5, 6, 7, we really showed what we're all about and battled back and continued to work and play."

Seabrook admitted it wasn't easy for him to accept having his minutes reduced and watching others step into the roles he's had throughout his career with the Blackhawks. But he knew he couldn't stop being a good teammate and quit giving his full effort.

"It's exciting, up and downs," Seabrook said of his emotions. "I've tried to stay even-keel. Some days are a little tough. As a hockey player, as a professional, you try and stay supportive of your teammates and try and be a good teammate and try to stay even-keel. I thought I did a good job of that. It was nice to get back out there and be an opportunity where I could play a little bit more and help this team out.

"Q's pretty good. Putting me back in that situation, putting back into practice with Duncan was pretty much all that was needed to be said [after Game 4.] I took that as we need more from you and need to be you better. I took that and tried to run with it."

Seabrook's teammates were happy to see him as the one to come through when it mattered most.

"It's huge," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I've said it before, he's a leader in this room. Everyone in here knows the positive feeling he brings every single day, his attitude and his work ethic, the way he plays the game. He's a team guy. He's doing everything for everyone else. He's willing to do whatever it takes, and he stepped up. Obviously, he deserves the recognition he's getting for scoring a big goal like that."

Keith never expected anything less from his close friend.

"He's a big leader of this team," Keith said. "It was great to see him the way he was able to play in the last three games. I thought he played hard the whole series. He's been big for us all season long. Nice to see him get that overtime winner."