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DOUBLE D
Sarah Kwak
June 17, 2010
COMPLEMENTARY GIFTS AND AN UNCANNY ON-ICE CHEMISTRY DEFINE THE NHL'S MOST EFFECTIVE DEFENSIVE DUO
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June 17, 2010

Double D

COMPLEMENTARY GIFTS AND AN UNCANNY ON-ICE CHEMISTRY DEFINE THE NHL'S MOST EFFECTIVE DEFENSIVE DUO

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Keith and Seabrook were paired in their second season and have been an even-strength fixture ever since. Late in the 2009-10 season, after defenseman Brian Campbell went down with a broken collarbone and rib, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville tried splitting up Keith and Seabrook to balance his defensive pairs. The experiment lasted 10 games.

"Playing them apart just doesn't work," says Tallon, a former NHL defenseman and now the general manager of the Panthers. "You look back in history, and [early 1970s Blackhawks tandem] Bill White and Pat Stapleton were that way. They really had great chemistry together. In my best years I played with Keith Magnuson. He was a stay-at-home, trustworthy guy, and I was the offensive risk-taking guy. You have to have the right chemistry and combination."

Along with their complementary skill sets, Keith and Seabrook have benefited from familiarity. They shared an apartment in Chicago during their first year in the league and now live just a few blocks apart. In February they went together to Vancouver where they helped Canada on its run to Olympic gold. Over the last five years Keith and Seabrook have spent so much time within 10 feet of each other, it's a wonder they aren't finishing each other's sentences as well as checks. "It's like the Sedin twins [Daniel and Henrik] in Vancouver," says Chicago defenseman Brent Sopel. "They know exactly what's going on. They know exactly where the other is going, because they've played with each other so long. It's like, at the end of the day, you know exactly how your spouse is going to react to something."

Teammates joke that Keith and Seabrook do, in fact, mimic an old married couple off the ice, bickering in that particular way. With such different personalities—Seabrook is the goofy one given to acting out and ribbing his teammates; Keith is quieter and more serious—it seems they are living embodiments of the old saying that opposites attract.

While Keith, 26, signed a 13-year, $72 million extension last December, Seabrook, 25, has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $3.5 million a season. Offense pays the bills in the NHL, and Keith's 69 points this season (Seabrook had 30) was second among all defensemen in the league. His upside remains enormous. A couple of years ago, when the team went through physicals, former Blackhawks skating coach and retired Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen noted that the only person he's seen with a higher VO2 max (a measure of aerobic capacity and fitness) than Keith was Lance Armstrong. It's safe to say that the 28 minutes of ice time Keith averaged during these playoffs (about four minutes more than Seabrook; for one thing, Keith generally gets additional time on the power play) didn't take a toll on his body. Keith's athleticism and ability to recover have always set him apart. "When we saw him at Michigan State, he skated like his feet never touched the ice," Tallon says.

Yet for all his dynamic ability—he has drawn comparisons to Norris Trophy winner and skating wizard Scott Niedermayer—and all his deceptiveness with the puck, Keith understands and appreciates what Seabrook does to help trigger his game. Just as Rangers great Brian Leetch thrived next to Jeff Beukeboom and the Oilers' Paul Coffey was helped by being alongside Charlie Huddy, Keith benefits from the security Seabrook brings.

The phrase thunder and lightning connotes an approaching storm. With Keith and Seabrook in the Blackhawks' fold, the champagne showers that came down after the Cup clincher may only be the beginning of the reign in Chicago.

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