By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BRIDGEPORT, CT. Things probably couldnt be any better for Dennis Seidenberg right about now.
The 29-year-old defenseman is coming off a Stanley Cup championship run in which he played the best hockey of his career. The entire run brought Seidenberg to the forefront on a national level, and pushed everything in his game up to a level that people openly wondered hed ever achieve.
Seidenberg had endured a spate of injuries earlier in his career and never truly realized his potential with the Flyers or the Hurricanes, but the Bruins coveted Seidenberg after watching him excel with Carolina in the postseason. He was tough on the Bruins with his compact, powerful build combined with his skillful offensive instincts, and he raised his level of play when the competition toughened.
The German defenseman became that guy in the Cup playoffs, and hasnt skipped even a half-beat during training camp this fall. Seidenberg hammered a Gregory Campbell pass into the top shelf past Evgeni Nabokov for the game-winning goal with eight minutes remaining in the third period of Saturdays 3-2 win over the Isles at Webster Bank Arena.
It was Seidenbergs fourth shot of the night on net and a nice little finale for the preseason with an Eastern Conference alley fight facing the Bs Thursday against the Flyers at TD Garden.
It was Seidenberg that was truly expected to step up and lead the defensemen crew with Zdeno Chara a healthy veteran scratch in the final preseason game for the Bs, and it was Seidenberg that did exactly that.
Considering that exactly a year ago Seidenberg was coming an injury in his first full training camp with the Bruins and attempting to shake off some considerable levels of rust after missing the entire postseason with an injury the steady, solid Bs blueliner has covered a lot of ground.
The defensemans willingness to step into the play and fire a searing shot at the net during crunch time was a level of confidence he didnt have for much of last season but one that hes tapped into since last May after he was paired with Chara against the Habs in the playoffs.
What a difference a year makes, said Seidenberg. Everything feels pretty good and physically Im in good shape considering the quick summer. The whole defensemen group is just working on making sure that were ready to go for the season, and I think were right there.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has noted all through camp that some veterans have needed a little more babying and gradual practice schedules after a grueling playoff run while other players hit the ice running in September.
Seidenberg was clearly one of the Bs in the latter camp of Cup vets. Hes been in midseason form skating, shooting and moving the puck, and should be primed for a monster season with all the experiences of last season behind.
After all it was Seidenberg who finished last year as the second most valuable player in the Cup playoffs behind Tim Thomas, and seemed to himself realize just how good he could potentially be on the ice. No longer was he just a shot-blocking machine with a nice offensive package of skills, but hed become a dominant force at the defensemen position to bookend with the equally dominant Chara.
I think confidence-wise, especially after the playoffs he had last year, Seidenbergs playoff performance has got to be something he builds on. To me, after Tim Thomas, he could have been the Conn Smythe winner, said Julien. He flew under the radar with a lot of people, but certainly not with us.
He was outstanding. Hes a guy thats comfortable on either side. At the same time, if you split him and Z it certainly gives us a real strong stability in our defensive pairings as well. Hes a pretty big presence back there for us.
For his part Seidenberg would love to skate with Chara again this season as they did in the playoffs, but the ice time horse also knows its a long year full of potential defensemen partners. Hes happy to skate with whichever player the coaching staff slots in next to him in a pairing, and potentially form an even deeper blueliner crew if both Chara and Seidenberg can act as the lead partner in their respective defensive pairings.