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Seidenberg/Chara paying huge dividends for Bruins

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg has been near perfect since being moved alongside No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara to start Game 3 of the Montreal series.

Here's the incontrovertible truth about Seidenberg's performance in the past eight games. He has been on the ice for nearly four hours -- 233 minutes and 43 seconds, to be precise -- and he has scored a goal, assisted on five others and is a plus-9. He also has 19 hits and 28 blocked shots during that span.

Boston coach Claude Julien had an idea of what Seidenberg could do when he made the switch, designed to help Boston deal with the speed of Montreal's top two lines.

"First couple of games we got a couple of unlucky bounces and the whole team didn't seem to gel like we wanted to and (Julien) felt the need to change pairs and switch it up," Seidenberg told on Thursday. "Ever since, it's seemed to work out well."

Well is an understatement. The results have been spectacular, even if Julien insists he is not surprised by Seidenberg's performances

"What he has given us is what we knew he could do for us," Julien said. "We've seen him do that for other teams. He's a player, like I have mentioned numerous times, who has played extremely well in big games. When he is at his best and he is very confident, he is an elite defenseman."

A game-breaking -- or series-breaking -- defenseman, you might say.

Seidenberg, who coincidentally was drafted by the Flyers, was not in Boston's lineup last season during the historic playoff collapse against the Flyers. Instead he was in the press box, unable to recover from severed tendons in his wrist in time to lend his skills to the desperate fray.

This time, though, he is right in the mix and the Bruins look even stronger than the team that raced out to a three-game lead against Philadelphia in last year's second-round series. In three games this year, Seidenberg has played 90 minutes and 25 seconds and is a plus-9.

"I think people are starting to recognize him -- whether it's his strength along the boards battling one-on-one, whether it's his ability to block shots, whether it's his shot from the point and his ability to move the puck up the ice. Even when he does pinch, he keeps the puck on his stick and makes something happen. He's got a lot of upside to his game."

It's hard to imagine Seidenberg being better than he has during his recent run, but the German-born defenseman is among his own harshest critics and he wants to be better. He's not ready to say he has reached the pinnacle, but he does admit to being a far different player than the one that had a minus-4 in the first two games against Montreal and looked lost more often than not when he was on the ice in those two defeats at TD Garden.

"I feel more comfortable right now," Seidenberg said. "In the beginning we were all gripping our sticks and maybe trying too hard in the first couple of games. You can definitely say I feel a lot more comfortable now. We have all settled in and found our strides."

The Seidenberg/Chara pairing has been so good that Julien has leaned on it heavily -- especially in this series against the Flyers. Seidenberg hasn't played less than 25 minutes in any of the three games and played a whopping 36:26 in the Bruins' Game 2 overtime victory.

Julien dismisses the idea that he might be riding Seidenberg too hard, calling the 29-year-old "a horse."

For the most part, Seidenberg agrees that he is capable of handling the workload -- although he does see the potential for trouble down the road. He also notes that the stress under which the minutes are played must be taken into account.

He said he felt pretty fresh after Game 1 and Game 3, despite playing more than 25 minutes in each game. Yet in Game 2, an overtime victory in which Boston had to fight back from a 2-0 deficit and then repel wave after wave of forays by Philadelphia into the attacking zone, Seidenberg was completely spent.

"Game 2 was a lot of different minutes -- a lot of up-and-downs and a lot of battling going on, whereas in Games 1 and 3, we had the lead and you can play smarter and more efficient," he said.

"(Wednesday) I felt real comfortable with the minutes I played. In Game 2, I was dying -- whether it was just my body or the whole team game that made the game a lot more exhausting. We turned the puck over a lot more and gave up too many chances, and that makes us work harder to just catch up. There was a lot more chasing going on than just having guys in front of you."
"What he has given us is what we knew he could do for us. We've seen him do that for other teams. He's a player, like I have mentioned numerous times, who has played extremely well in big games. When he is at his best and he is very confident, he is an elite defenseman." -- Bruins coach Claude Julien
Yet, Seidenberg isn't about to ask for a break. He is having too much fun being a difference-maker.

"If you ask a player if he likes being on the ice as much as possible, then I don't think there is anybody that says no," Seidenberg said. "The more you play, the less you think, I think. You just go out there and do your best and don't think about it.

"But you can't play a ton of minutes every second night. That's why you get days off in between and most of the times it's enough. But if it goes for a while you might be in trouble. So far, I think it is good. Hopefully in the near future we'll have a few days off and go from there."
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