by Scott King
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook skated in his 1,000th NHL game Thursday night. He was the fifth player in Franchise history to do so as the Blackhawks took on the visiting Winnipeg Jets for their second to last home game this season.
Prior to the game, Seabrook was honored by the Blackhawks with a ceremony and video presentation. The video featured messages from current teammates Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, as well as former teammates Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Marian Hossa (LTIR) also congratulated Seabrook on the jumbotron.
Patrick Sharp presented him with a silver stick and Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane unveiled a painting for the man of the hour. Things were going swimmingly, all the attention was on Seabrook, as it should have been.
“It was pretty cool,” Seabrook said. “It was pretty special being here for so many years since I was a 17-year-old baby.
“They had some pretty good footage. It was cool. Seeing my mom and my dad, my wife and my kids, my brother, seeing them out there was pretty special and I know they enjoyed it.”
Being a key-contributor to three Stanley Cups and winning an Olympic gold medal in 2010 with Team Canada in Vancouver, the blueliner etched his name in stone – or ice – a few seasons ago as one of the Hawks’ greatest defensemen. Playing in his 1,000th game was just the icing on the cake.
The Blackhawks drafted Seabrook in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft (14th overall). In his 13 seasons with the Hawks, the Richmond, BC native served as the most vocal leader and motivator of the team, as well as the voice of reason. He also kept things loose with taking up such tasks as bestowing nicknames upon newcomers.
What became synonymous with any mention of the 2015 All-Star is his ability to often be a clutch playoff performer. No doubt Seabrook’s brightest moment in the Indian Head sweater was when a blast off his stick found its way into Detroit’s net in overtime of Game 7 in the second round of the 2013 playoffs and the Hawks were able to rally down 3-1 in the series and eventually win the Stanley Cup that year.
Heading into Thursday’s contest, Seabrook registered 430 career points (94 goals, 336 assists).
The focus and feels very much still seemed to be on the alternate captain as the game played out, even with the Blackhawks leading a 6-2 high-scoring affair. That is, until about 14 and a half minutes remained in the game…
Hawks goaltender Collin Delia wasn’t supposed to get the start Thursday, but after Anton Forsberg was injured warming up prior to the game, he did. The 23-year-old was 14-6-4 with a 2.68 goals against average, .904 save percentage and one shutout in 24 games with the IceHogs this season. Delia saved 25 of 27 shots in his NHL debut until being slow to get up and eventually going to the room with what Joel Quenneville said were cramps.
Scott Foster was on hand to back him up and make his own NHL debut. Foster, a 36-year-old from Ontario who played in 55 games at Western Michigan from 2002-2006, was signed to an amateur tryout contract to backup Delia after Forsberg was injured. By day Foster is an accountant, by night, a beer league goalie.
“Sharpy was just laughing about it saying it just sums up my career in a nutshell in a night,” Seabrook said of the attention shifting off him and onto the Hawks’ newest goalie. “Scotty comes in and steals the spotlight. It was great, it was pretty cool to see him go in there.
“The guys were saying when he was sitting in the locker room there he was as cool as a cucumber and he just went out there and, Christ, took a few shots. I was like ‘Oh, this guy looks pretty good.’ He was great I think the boys were doing everything they could to help him out and he made some big saves and it was a fun night.”
Foster was tested early by such attackers as Dustin Byfuglien, who fired a slapshot his way. He stopped all seven shots he faced.
“The initial shock happened when I had to dress,” Foster said. “And then, I think you just kind of black out after that.”
Almost every time Foster made a save, some of which were pretty impressive, a majority of the United Center crowd chanted his name. “That’s something you’ll never forget. You understand what’s happening and they’re going to have a lot of fun with it, so you might as well too.”
The Blackhawks have a collection of possible emergency goalies on-hand who rotate in. Foster was in the press box before signing the contract and getting the gear on. He said he has been at 12-15 games this year just in case. Good thing he was at the United Center Thursday night.
Patrick Kane opened up the scoring by keeping it on a 3-on-2 after poking the puck loose in the Jets’ defensive zone. Brandon Saad scored with 2:43 left in the first period on a no-look pass from Nick Schmaltz. It was Schmatz’s 50th point of the season.
Tomas Jurco scored twice in the second period to give Chicago a 4-0 lead. But the second would see more tallies as Brian Little later scored for the Jets followed by breakaway goal from Erik Gustafsson and another for the Jets from Mark Scheifele to make it 5-2 in favor of the Hawks.
Alex DeBrincat scored at 2:11 in the third and the final score would be 6-2 for a very interesting Hawks’ victory.
Forward Dylan Sikura also made his NHL debut with the Hawks on Thursday. Sikura finished his college career Saturday after Michigan eliminated Northeastern from the NCAA tournament. Sikura picked up his first NHL point on a secondary assist on the Gustafsson goal, and his second on DeBrincat’s goal.
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