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Seidenberg Relishes Big-Game Role

by Anthony Gulizia / Boston Bruins – In the opening shift of Monday’s Game 3 contest against Washington, Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin plowed into Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

Seidenberg and Chara defend the ice around Tim Thomas
It was just another day at the office for No. 44, as he matched up against the Capitals top line for the third straight game.

It’s also what Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg have grown accustom to since the start of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Throughout last year’s Cup run, the dynamic defensive duo emerged as a special, “big-game” combination, charged with opposing team’s top units.

“We needed a big D pair that would really shut down certain lines last year and throughout the playoffs, we seem to play against teams that really have some big, potent top lines,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said. “So, they were put together for that reason.”

Since the Bruins official Cup defense started in this season’s playoffs, that top line the pair has faced has been Washington’s trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer.

Thus far, Seidenberg and Chara have limited Washington’s top line to seven points in the first three games – but the real results aren’t reflected in the box score.

Every shift, the two go toe-to-toe with Ovechkin, who’s turned himself into a human wrecking ball during Game 1, and has continued to play with such intensity.

But it’s a challenge that Seidenberg thrives on.

“I think he’s the guy that’s always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us,” Julien said. “He’s been known as a big game player and he continues to show that.  Zdeno [Chara] is as good as you’ll get as a defenseman but when it comes to playoff time, Seids isn’t that far behind him, if at all.

“So, he’s been a real good player for us, a real force, physical. He’s loving these kind of challenges and he thrives on it. You need those kinds of players to succeed.”

For Seidenberg, his success comes through intense preparation.

“You have to be on your game, you have to know what you’re up against and their tendencies and once you do that you’re fine,” Seidenberg said. “You always have to keep your level simple – your strengths in mind, what makes you good and what makes you play well and that’s really how you approach your game and go from there.”

That said, playoff experience is invaluable for the 30-year-old defenseman, who’s played in 47 postseason games.

“The first few years, you kind of struggle with consistency and I think consistency is a big part of hockey,” Seidenberg said. “You do your job and do your job right every time you’re on the ice, that’s when you gain confidence from the coaching staff and it’s how you get more playing time.

“You’re playing more, you feel more confident and when you play in the playoffs you get more experience and just know how to approach games and you get better at doing it.”

Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who’s matched up against the Capitals alongside Johnny Boychuk, said that Seidenberg’s consistency is one of his greatest strengths.

“It’s not once in a while he’s on top of, you know he’s really tough to shake throughout the entire game and the entire series,” Ference said. “Obviously, he has a lot of pride in having that assignment against top guys and with talent, he’s a good player as it is so he’s a good defenseman and I think really relishes that role.”

But most importantly, the defensive pairing of Seidenberg and Chara can’t take shape unless Julien has the utmost confidence in his other defenders, and he certainly does.

“We really felt comfortable that other guys could do the job against any other line,” Julien said. “You just have to talk about [Johnny] Boychuk and [Andrew] Ference, [Adam] McQuaid last year. Those three guys still did a great job and that’s what I mean – I’m not trying to distribute credit but if you don’t have those players underneath them you can’t do it.”

As a result, Julien can roll with his top defensive pair for big-time games and the results are beneficial not only for the team, but for Seidenberg, too.

In the meantime, he’s had the opportunity to learn from Chara.

“I don’t know if he learns from me – he’s played quite a bit longer than I have,” Seidenberg joked. “But, playing with him definitely helps me. He’s a very dominant guy. In the defensive zone he wins every puck battle and that’s something that’s very nice to have beside you and makes the whole game easier and gets the positional game going a lot faster.

“I obviously want to do the same thing. Not every time [will] I win the battle as easy as Zee, but I’ll try.”

Thus far, Seidenberg’s put forward a tremendous effort.
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