By Joe Haggerty
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.