Haggerty: Seidenberg turning things around


Haggerty: Seidenberg turning things around

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.

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

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.