-- Boston Bruins
defenseman Dennis Wideman
admits it wasn't easy returning to the bench after he and defense partner Matt Hunwick
had just been schooled by Danny Briere
on the finer points of splitting a defense.
Not only was it disheartening to allow Briere the easiest passage to goalie Tuukka Rask
, but he scored the game-tying goal with 3:22 remaining in the third period to ultimately send the game against the Philadelphia Flyers
If the Bruins hadn't come out victorious, Wideman might have never forgiven himself. But they did, so he was more than willing to discuss the blunder.
"It took a little while to forget about it," Wideman said with a grin. "I was pretty angry to send it to overtime. I was angry it was the game-tying goal and it was scored with four minutes left. Anytime a forward walks between the defense like that, it's not something you want to have happen."
But Wideman certainly did a lot more good than bad in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal on Saturday. Come to think of it, he's done a whole lot of good throughout the entire postseason.
In the absence of some key players along the blue line, including Dennis Seidenberg
(torn tendon in left forearm) and Mark Stuart
(left hand infection), the fifth-season performer logged 28:17 of ice time, the third-highest total on his team on Saturday.
He also notched a career-high three assists in Boston's 5-4 OT triumph over the Flyers on Saturday and is now tied for the team postseason lead in scoring with 7 points, including a team-leading six assists. He scored 6 goals and 30 points in 76 regular season games -- missing six games due to left knee and shoulder injuries.
"My first assist (in the first period) was good on the (Patrice) Bergeron goal but the other two were kind of cheesy," Wideman said. "The second one, I just passed to Johnny (Boychuk) and, 30 seconds later, (Miroslav) Satan scores the actual goal."
But Wideman, never known to give himself a hearty pat on the back, has averaged 25:53 of ice time in the playoffs at a time when coach Claude Julien
has needed him most. That's well above the 23:33 he logged in the regular season.
He's also second on the team with 16 blocked shots in seven games, which isn't too much of a surprise considering he led the team in that category during the regular season with 110 -- six more than captain Zdeno Chara
"We try to block as many shots as we can and I think it's quite a bit more important since they changed all the rules," Wideman said. "You can't move guys out in front, so when the forwards are doing a good job and their defense is taking snap shots from the point, we got to get out in front of their guys and block it. I think it becomes more important as the playoffs go on. Look at Montreal, they blocked 41 shots in one game (against Washington). Things like that help you win series."
Wideman realizes his game changes a bit against a feisty opponent like the Flyers.
"They're a physical team and they're big and hard to move off the puck, so for us smaller guys, you kind of have to keep them outside and play the puck and stop them from getting around you," Wideman said. "You can't allow them to take it to the net."
Perhaps that's what was most frustrating to the 6-foot Wideman when the 5-foot-10 Briere scored his marvelous goal off an end-to-end rush late in regulation -- in this instance, size didn't matter.
It was a situation where both Wideman and Hunwick were guilty of puck-gazing.
"I think he was coming in between us and we were both kind of waiting for him to make a pass to one of the walls and we didn't think he would carry it," Wideman said. "He kind of jumped through. I was there and gave him a little bump, and Hunwick was there and he poked the puck off his stick. But the puck eventually went off a shin pad and back onto Briere's stick again. We have to play the body and not the puck like that. It was kind of one of those things where we were indecisive."
It's also one of those things the 27-year-old Wideman will refuse to let happen again. After all, he did deliver 100 hits this season, so playing the body is nothing new.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com