In the sake of tradition and luck, it’s time to rank the play of the Chicago Blackhawk defensemen during the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.
Let’s jump in, shall we? We’ll start with the best from the series and work towards, well, the one who wasn’t the best. And, let’s keep in mind that winning two series in the NHL playoffs is rarely done in spite of players.
Brian Campbell – Not only was Campbell, in my humble opinion, the best Hawk defenseman during the series, he’s also in the “Best Blackhawk During the Series Not Named Patrick Kane in Game Six” conversation. Many, including Canuck players, said the Hawks’ offensively inclined defensemen were the difference in the series, and Campbell is Exhibit A. During seemingly each game, Campbell was forced to chase pucks in his own end, dealing with a strong Canuck forecheck in the process. Not only did Campbell take the inevitable beating, he routinely led successful Hawk breakouts, often doing it all by himself. Campbell’s game five was perhaps his best in a Hawk sweater, contributing two assists on Dustin Byfuglien goals, including one beautiful pass while walking the blue line. Campbell also leads the Hawks with a +5 playoff rating.
Brent Seabrook – He’s big; he’s bad (in a good way); and he has as many playoff points as Brian Campbell with one goal and eight assists. Seabrook was the leading force in limiting Daniel and Henrik Sedin to five goals and six assists combined for the series’ six games, or one less goal and four more assists than Patrick Kane and his twin brother, Milosh, who doesn’t exist. Seabrook played solid in both zones and was a mainstay on what was a successful power play during the series, helping him log team-leading ice time during the six game series.
Duncan Keith – Keith wasn’t bad during the Vancouver series; he just wasn’t great. Of course, he was one-half the defensive tandem that limited the Sedins’ impact during the six games, but Keith hasn’t been himself with the puck, especially in his own zone where he seems to be lacking confidence moving the biscuit. One thing’s for sure: whether it’s Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan or Datsyuk, Zetterburg and Franzen, Keith will have to rediscover his confidence if the Hawks wish to advance again.
Cam Barker – Barker’s best nights are sometimes those he’s not noticed. So, either Barker was very average during the most recent Blackhawks’ playoff series or he was excellent, because he didn’t do much to be noticed. Barker’s defensive play continues to be solid, but he routinely cheats far too much on the weak side in offensive zone situations. At the end of game one, Barker thought a late-game situation in a tie game was the appropriate time to sneak deep into the offensive zone. Wrong. The ‘Nucks made him pay at the other end to take the first game of the series. Barker made a couple other similar decisions during the series, but was solid overall in his own end. The Hawks will likely need more than one assist from him in the next round.
Matt Walker – All Walker needs is the bad mustache, and he’d be a dead ringer for Cam Russell, the Former Blackhawk number eight who struggled to do much of anything beyond finding new ways to sustain a concussion. Walker, who has largely been serviceable this season (albeit in a larger role than he probably deserved), made a handful of key defensive mistakes during the series, especially in the later games. A few found the back of the net, as in game six when Walker had flashes of his pee wee days and attempted to join the offensive rush. Nine seconds later, the puck hit the twine behind Khabibulin.
Ham Sandwich – Hammy is always willing to take the hit to make the play, even when decapitation seems the likely outcome. He’s been steady carrying sixth defenseman minutes, and looks to be a top-four defenseman in the making.