Seidenberg looking to extend playoff performance

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Seidenberg looking to extend playoff performance

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON Even Dennis Seidenberg caught himself a few times this summer watching replays of the Stanley Cup playoff games, and asking himself one simple question.

Who was that guy wearing the No. 44 Bruins sweater playing with strength, poise, tenacity, tireless endurance and such a smoothness carrying pucks up and down the ice?

The German defenseman knew, of course, that he was watching himself play the best hockey of his NHL career amid Bostons run to Stanley Cup glory, and that hed be hard-pressed to operate at such a high level jumping into this season.

When I saw those games on NHL Network all the time and Id turn and just watch for a second. It seemed like everything was so simple and nothing seemed to faze me, or us, said Seidenberg. You think that you can do that anytime you want, but when you get on the ice you dont always have that calmness and composure with the puck.
Its tough to get back when youve been off the ice for a couple of months.

The burning question becomes whether Seidenberg can elevate his regular season for longer stretches to match the super defenseman that emerged for Boston during the postseason. Hes done it in big games and has all of the physical attributes to be a top pair defenseman, and the former Flyers, Hurricanes and Panthers blueliner now has the health that always eluded him earlier in his career.

So this upcoming season could be the year where it all comes together after his breakout 25 game body of work leading up to the Cup.

The 29-year-old looked a bit different from the playoff beast as he hopped off the ice Friday morning following captains practice. There was a bit more huffing and puffing involved as hes engaged in his annual transformation from weight room training to hockey shape, but its the same player with the steady skill set and ability to elevate his game during the postseason.

Seidenberg has also always been a hockey player thats been extremely tough on himself as an individual, and doesnt normally give himself the credit he deserves for his skill package as a puck-moving defenseman. That meant his confidence wasnt always brimming at its highest possible level, but thats something Seidenberg might just be able to hold onto after watching how well he played in the postseason.

Personally I feel really good. I feel even better than I did last year, said Seidenberg. I know that I can get it all back. Its just a matter of getting that feel and that confidence going again. That shouldnt be a problem for me.

You get used to playing the big minutes. You get smarter and you get more efficient. Somehow it would work, but I hadnt really thought it much.

Some argued that Seidenberg deserved Conn Smythe dark horse consideration given the 27:38 of ice time he played in the 25 playoff games, and his tone-setting physicality as Zdeno Charas defenseman partner made them the perfect shutdown pair during the postseason.

It was definitely on my mind over the summer, but at the end of the day it doesnt really matter whether Im paired with him or not, said Seidenberg. I have to play my game and focus on my tasks. I just have to focus on my game and keep trying to get better.

Did Seidenberg get a little spoiled skating with Chara during the playoffs after the two were separated for the entirety of the regular season?

Every time youre on the ice with him you get spoiled, said Seidenberg. I learned so much from him. Its a lot of fun being paired with Chara.

It would be very tempting for the Bruins to put those two stalwart defensemen together during the season, and see just how good they could be at shutting down the NHLs best players. But it could also be something that makes sense in a winner-take-all postseason setting, but doesnt allow for enough balance during an 82-game regular season.

Its something for the Bs coaching staff to tinker with during the upcoming training camp, and its up to the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg to see if he can build on a solid 32-point regular season with a plus-3 rating.

Seidenberg showed he could be even better than that in the playoffs, however, and the Bruins will need the playoff Seidenberg more often if they hope to stave off their Stanley Cup hangover this year.

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

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .