BOSTON – They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals without him for all but one shift and then built a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with him in the press box -- but the Boston Bruins still missed Dennis Seidenberg.
The Bruins eventually needed to get their stalwart defenseman back from an undisclosed injury. You can't help but miss a guy who finished the regular season second on the team in average tice on ice and tops in blocked shots overall and hits by a defenseman.
Seidenberg returned just in time to help the Bruins prevent the Rangers from making a miraculous comeback in the series. Skating back in his usual spot next to Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg logged 23:37 of ice time, played on the power play and penalty kill and was plus-1 in Boston's series-clinching 3-1 victory Saturday at TD Garden.
"I felt good. It was nice to be playing again and trying to help the team," he said. "It was a good feeling."
Seidenberg replaced Dougie Hamilton in the lineup after the rookie had three assists in the series' first four games. Along with Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug, Hamilton helped make up for the absence of Seidenberg, Wade Redden and Andrew Ference due to injuries, as the Bruins jumped ahead in the series.
That was the luxury the Bruins had in waiting until Seidenberg was 100 percent ready to return.
"We made sure that when he came back he was ready to come back," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It was a close call, to be honest with you, in Game 4; it really was a close call. We almost had him back and we chose to wait one more game. But he was ready to go. What he does is he just adds some stability to our back line. Every year in the playoffs he's been one of our best defensemen; he really rises to those occasions. We were happy to have him in this game tonight because we knew how tough it was going to be."
Even he hadn't been returning from a four-game injury absence, Seidenberg would have felt the mammoth hits Chris Kreider delivered early in the second period. The first came as the two players chased a dump-in in the Bruins' zone. After the Bruins gained possession and started their breakout, Kreider again planted Seidenberg on his rear end with a rugged forecheck.
"They were hard hits. I'm fine. He's a thick kid, and usually that doesn't happen, but I just lost balance. It was a good hit," Seidenberg said. "I lost a little bit of my breath. That came back a little bit later, but for the most part, again, it was a good hit. You just have to shake it off and keep going."
Seidenberg kept going and with his contribution aiding a Bruins victory, the entire team gets to keep going -- into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He said that all things considered, his return went pretty well.
"Well, not playing for four games, for two weeks-plus. It's not always easy to come back, especially in the playoffs," Seidenberg said. "To match the intensity and fit right in, especially when the team has played so well ... for the most part, I think it was OK."