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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


May 4, 2010 4:11 PM

Exhibit A: How to Handle Playoff Adversity

Seabrook.jpgWhen you make a crucial mistake in a game, especially in a playoff contest, there's one of two ways you can go. You can curl up, try and hide, and let the mistake get the best of you. Or you can react the way Brent Seabrook of the Blackhawks did last night.

With his team trailing the Canucks 1-0 early in the first period of Game 2 last night, Seabrook knocked his goal off its moorings during a wild scramble in the Blackhawks crease. On replay it seemed as though a desperate Seabrook did it on purpose, trying to get a play stoppage for his beleagured goaltender Antti Niemi.

Seabrook, rightfully so, was penalized for delay of game. And as luck would have it, Vancouver converted on the power play when Mikael Samuelsson hammered in a point-blank shot, giving the Canucks a 2-0 advantage just 5:02 into the game.

This was Seabrook's response: he scored his first goal of the playoffs two minutes later to give his team some life and jump-start an eventual 4-2 come-from-behind victory. Along the way Seabrook played his most dominant game of the post-season. He added two assists to finish with a three-point performance. He was on ice for all four Blackhawks goals, and finished a plus-four. He was credited with a game-high 8 hits over 23:38 worth of ice-time.

How he responded to his ill-fated mistake tells you all you need to know about Brent Seabrook, as steady as they come on the talented Blackhawks defense, even though he is often overshadowed by teammates Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell.

Seabrook has strung together five solid NHL campaigns already, and was a revelation on Chicago's blueline---both offensively and defensively---with his big-game play during last year's playoffs.

Last night was just further confirmation of what he is all about and why he is so important to the Blackhawks.

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Russia is really loading up to defend its gold medal in the World Championships, taking advantage of several star players being ousted from the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Semyon Varlamov were not expected to play for Russia this spring because, well, the expecation was they would be helping the Capitals on a long post-season run, perhaps even a Cup title. A hugely disappointing seven-game defeat at the hands of the Canadiens has changed all that, and now Russia benefits greatly.

Plus the Russians will also have the services of Ilya Kovalchuk, another surprise as most expected Kovie's New Jersey Devils to advance past the first round.

With the bitter taste of the Olympics still fresh, expect this Russian squad to be amped up to capture a third straight gold when the World Championships kick off on Friday in Germany.

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Speaking of the Worlds, many hockey people are downplaying the core of talented young players on the Rangers, something that head coach John Tortorella has been playing up in the wake of his club not reaching the post-season this year, but look at the World Championship rosters and you will see seven Rangers between the ages of 19 and 25 taking part in this tourny. That's impressive.

Perhaps most impressive is that center Chris Kreider, the speedy first-round pick last spring who helped lead Boston College to the NCAA title this year, was chosen to be a part of Team USA. Kreider, who just turned 19 last week, is the only collegiate player on the roster. The Rangers have to feel real good about Kreider's inclusion, as well as his winning pedigree. Since being drafted Kreider played a big role in helping the US win gold at the World Junior Championships, then won the NCAA championship with BC.

Kreider will join Michael Del Zotto (19, Canada), Artem Anisimov (21, Russia), Marc Staal (23, Canada), Brandon Dubinsky (24, USA), Chad Johnson (24, Canada), and Matt Gilroy (25, USA) as youthful Rangers taking part in this tournament.

I'll have more on this topic over at the Rangers official web site on Wednesday in my preview of the World Championships. Check it out here.

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