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The Art of Shot Blocking

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
WILMINGTON, Mass.  – Under head coach Claude Julien, the B’s strong defensive play has been the pride of the team’s system. However, the approach to defense in the NHL is undergoing significant change, and in recent years, the topic of shot blocking has come to the forefront. 


Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg (44) dives to try to knock the puck away from New York Rangers center Derek Stepan during the first period of a NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
“I think most teams are doing that now. A lot of defensemen are fronting pucks in front of the net, whether it’s pucks coming from the point or what ... It seems like guys are more willing to get in front of pucks,” Bruins veteran defenseman Mark Stuart explained after practice today at Ristuccia Arena.

Fellow B’s blueliner and last season’s pick-up from Florida, Dennis Seidenberg, added that while defensive shot blocking has become a beneficial technique for his team, it is especially irritating when it happens on the other side of the ice.

“It’s always frustrating when we’re playing and I don’t get a shot through. I’m annoyed that it didn’t go all the way to the goal line or to the net,” Seidenberg said. “It just gives the other team momentum coming out of the zone, so every time you block a shot I think it’s a good thing.”

Both defensemen agreed that shot blocking is all about the delicate balance between being aggressive in front of the net and staying in control.

“Most of the time, it’s controlled. It’s not like I’m going headfirst or anything. Most of the time, I’m in the shooting lane, facing the puck, hoping for the best,” Seidenberg commented.

“It’s not like I’m really trying to block every shot there is. If there’s an opportunity, then great, but I’m not throwing myself in and going crazy, so most of the time, it’s controlled shot blocking and if it helps, that’s great.”

Stuart concurred that no matter how aggressive a defenseman may want to be, there is a proper time and place for goal-saving heroics. 

“Well, if you don’t really have a shot to get in front of it, you’ve just got to let the goalie make the saves sometimes,” said the 6’2”, 213-pounder. “You don’t have to act like the goalie all the time out there. It’s his job to save pucks. 

“Sometimes you do more harm than good by getting in front of him and trying to block the shot.”

But of course, playing in front of a goalie that is performing like Tim Thomas right now always helps.

“I think it makes everybody’s job easier. Timmy [is giving] the defensemen confidence to make plays back there because, we know he’s going to make some saves for us,” Stuart said.

Currently in his ninth pro season, Seidenberg has learned that even with a great goaltender, shot blocking takes coordination and communication between a netminder and his defensemen.

“He sees the same as I do, so when he sees me step in to a shot, he obviously hopes for me to block it, instead of deflecting it and putting it into the goal.

“If you can’t block it, just stay in line with the guy that stands in front of him, the opposing player, so it gives [the goalie] a spot where he can read off of and cover the other side of the net.”

Seidenberg, Stuart and the rest of the B’s defense know they need to put everything together, making sure to execute just as they have been doing in practice, as they take on the Sabres, a divisional rival, in Buffalo on Wednesday.

“[Buffalo] has always played us really tough, especially in their building. It’s going to be a tough game,” Stuart said. “They’ve got some guys that can score and great goaltending, so it’ll be one of our toughest challenges yet.”

So how does that translate into shot blocking for the B’s defense? Stuart plans on using the same, simple technique he always does.

“If you’re going to get in front of the goalie, you’ve got to be sure to block [the puck].”

---Ashley Robbins
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