Haggerty: Seidenberg turning things around

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Haggerty: Seidenberg turning things around

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The heated exchange between Tuukka Rask and Dennis Seidenberg at one of the lowest points of the season in Toronto last weekend could very easily end up as the nadir for Seidenbergs entire season.

The 29-year-old has six goals and 22 assists along with a plus-5 on the season while playing every game this season, and averaging just a shade under 24 minutes of ice time per night but things had turned southward over the last couple of weeks.

Capped off by the RaskSeidenberg flap in Toronto, the defenseman was in the midst of a seven game scoreless rut that saw him post a minus-6 and put together six straight minus performances. The German defenseman was noticeably having difficulty holding steady in front of the Boston net, and was part of the overall team breakdown that went down on the road.

When things happen out there and there are defensive breakdowns where youre not getting the bounces, it seems like the minus numbers keep piling up, said Seidenberg. Its just how it goes."

It seems pretty obvious that logging big minutes in every game this season and missing virtually no time from the practice ice over the course of the year had worn down the blueliner a bit.

But just like the teams fortunes, all of that has changed for Seidenberg in the last two highly successful home games that have ended with wins.

Seidenberg served notice early in the win over New Jersey that his personal slump was over when he picked up the primary assist in Bostons first goal against the Devils with a sharp shot from the right point. More importantly, Seidenberg was playing steady defense in front of Tim Thomas between the pipes, and actually saved a goal against the Habs while the game was still in question.

Brian Gionta flew down the right side of the net when it was still a 3-0 hockey game on Thursday night with a trailer storming down the middle, and fired a puck that appeared destined for a goal after Thomas was caught out of position. Instead Seidenberg slid behind Thomas to cover up the goal crease, and blocked the Gionta shot headed into the open net.

That play helped keep the Canadiens at bay before they completely quit in the third period against the Bruins, and showed the kind of intelligent, steady defensively play Seidenberg is counted on for when hes going right.

The Boston defenseman was ecstatic to get out of the land of minus hockey over the last couple of games, and is at a plus-2 with an assist in the last two games while reversing his play from tough luck to stalwart. Seidenberg was somewhat miscast as a No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara for the bulk of the season, and has been adjusting to life as a D partner for Tomas Kaberle over the last month.

It looks like the adjustment period is just about over.

I was relieved in that last game to look down and see a plus on the scoresheet, said Seidenberg. Its definitely a good feeling. Its good to be on the positive side again and its good to be winning as well.

Theres no coincidence that Thomas has stopped 54 of 55 shots over the last two wins, and seems to be back on track as Seidenberg and Co. have locked things down around the net and blocked any shots that their goaltender isnt going to get a good peek at given the bodies flying in front of the net.

The team played really well in front of me the last two games, said Thomas. Kept the chances to a minimum and allowed me to see the shots and keep them to the outside. That made my job a lot easier in the last two games, so its allowing me to build some confidence and start to feel comfortable.

Seidenbergs role on the Bruins among their top defensemen is going to be one of the big keys headed into the playoffs, and success will hinge a great deal on the German defender playing just like he has the last two games and seeing a lot more plus signs on the nightly scoresheet.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.