Brent Seabrook doesn't need to wear a letter on the front of his sweater for his fellow Blackhawks to recognize the caliber of leadership he provides.
The veteran defenseman not only scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 to tie the Stanley Cup Finals at 2 games apiece Wednesday -- his second sudden-death goal this postseason -- his pregame banter may have helped spark captain Jonathan Toews, who subsequently ended a personal drought by scoring his second goal in 21 playoff games.
Toews said he and Seabrook were in a lounge at the team hotel prior to Game 4 when Seabrook looked at him and asked a simple question: "What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing," Toews answered nonchalantly.
Not liking the reply, Seabrook held his gaze and repeated the question for emphasis.
"I realized what he wanted me to say, and I snapped back and said 'Scoring goals,'" a smiling Toews recalled Thursday at the United Center.
"He wasn't trying to get on me, I don't think; he was definitely just trying to spark me a little bit," Toews added. "I don't know if it's something that goes with the relationship and the friendship we've had over the years, rooming with him my rookie year here in Chicago. Goes a way back already. But he's always kind of looked after me that way."
Only Toews and alternate captains Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith wear jerseys adorned with the letters "C" or "A", respectively, the official designators of hockey leadership. Yet, any Blackhawk within earshot knows Seabrook can motivate the group, irrespective of lettering.
"Since I've been here he's one of the guys that doesn't wear a letter, but he's definitely a big part of our leadership group," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Even at a young age here, five years going back, he was probably the one voice that you hear a lot in the locker room and probably the most on the bench or around even practice or game time or preparing between periods. I think he's the one guy that usually says -- you'll hear him the most. He always says the right things and he's a great teammate, a great competitor."
"Probably one of the louder guys before the game in the locker room, in between periods," Toews confirmed. "He's always getting the guys going. I think that's part of his ritual to get himself going, that he wants to be vocally involved and just get that
positive feeling, that excited feeling going for the boys."
The competitor in Seabrook needs no extra motivation once games venture into extra time. His Game 4 winner was the eighth overtime goal of his career (regular season and playoffs), setting a new franchise record.
He also became just the fifth NHL defenseman since 1950 to score 2 overtime goals in a single postseason, according to the Blackhawks, joining a short list that includes Chris Chelios.
"I love overtime," Seabrook said. "I think it's such a great part of the game, especially in the playoffs when you play until one team scores. I think it's such an exciting part of the game. I grew up loving it, and just to be able to get opportunities and play in games like that, they're a lot of fun and everything is right on the line. I think I definitely try and raise my game in overtime and try and be better."
It's the kind of leadership advice Seabrook's teammates can follow.
To the letter.