It appears the formula for the Blackhawks to win games is fairly simple.
Watch the plus-minus of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Breaking down the numbers through 50 games this year, it is truly remarkable how much the fortunes of the Hawks top defensive pair dictates the end result of the game. Both have played in all 50 games, and the team’s success tracks with their personal performance almost every night.
In the Blackhawks 24 losses, Keith is minus-22 and Seabrook is minus-20.
In the Blackhawks 26 wins, Keith is plus-18 and Seabrook is plus-13.
Seabrook has been positive in only two losses; Keith in only four. On the other hand, Seabrook has only been negative in six wins; Keith has been in the red in five victories.
Both Keith and Seabrook have had a positive plus-minus in the same game only 13 times this year. The Blackhawks are 12-1 in those games, scoring 52 goals (4.33 per game) in those contests.
Both Keith and Seabrook have been even in 14 games, seven of which were together. In the seven games that both Keith and Seabrook were even, the Hawks are 3-2-2. In the other seven games Seabrook was even, the Hawks are 3-3-1. In the other seven games Keith was even, the Hawks are 5-3-1.
Oh, and those numbers aren’t even including the fact that Seabrook (18) and Keith (16) are among the league leaders in opponents’ power plays goals against.
But to make the point even more clear, look at how these number compare with the Blackhawks second pair: Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Campbell missed October with a knee injury, and has played in 37 games so far. In those games, the Hawks are 19-15-3, but Campbell hasn’t had nearly the plus-minus swing that Keith or Seabrook has from wins to losses. In those 19 wins, Campbell is plus-21; in the 18 losses, he is still plus-two.
Hjalmarsson was suspended earlier in the season, but has played in 48 games to date. In those games, the Hawks are 26-18-4, but again the plus-minus swing isn’t nearly as wide as Keith or Seabrook. In those 26 wins, Hjalmarsson is plus-16; in the 22 losses, he’s minus-10.
Saying that the quality of play from a team’s top defensive pair is important is like saying the ocean is moist. But the numbers make it painfully obvious how dependant the Blackhawks are on their top pair to show up every night.