X-Factor: Seidenberg the unsung half of top pairing
Everyone marvels at Zdeno Chara's famous workout regimen and incredible physical fitness.
His long-distance cycling, climbing of Mt. Kilimanjaro and near-30-minute average ice time each season are all front-and-center in the story of the NHL legend. With less fanfare, however, another Boston Bruins defenseman combined with Chara to gut out nearly 30 minutes of ice time a night to help the Bruins win last season's Stanley Cup.
Dennis Seidenberg averaged 27 minutes, 37 seconds to Chara's 27:39 as the two formed a No. 1 defense pair that kept opposing snipers at bay through most of Boston's monumental run. This year, Seidenberg hopes he can repeat that feat.
"The conditioning wasn't a problem at all," said Seidenberg, who skated in all 25 postseason games and recorded one goal and 11 points. "A game here or there, like in Tampa it was hot and you're sweating bullets, so it was a struggle here or there, but for the most part I felt good. I didn't feel exhausted. Even after the last game, I felt like I could've kept going. But once the party started, that's when it hit me."
In an effort to better Boston's odds of partying again come June, Bruins coach Claude Julien reunited Seidenberg with Chara down the stretch of the 2011-12 regular season after the two had played separately most of the campaign. Once Seidenberg and Chara were reunited, and Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference once again formed a solid second pair, the Bruins emerged from their mid-winter swoon and rolled to a second straight Northeast Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins' front office and coaching staff originally took a liking to Seidenberg when the German-born blueliner was part of a Carolina team that upset Boston in the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. General manager Peter Chiarelli swung a deal for Seidenberg at the 2010 NHL Trade Deadline, but an unfortunate on-ice collision that resulted in a sliced wrist stopped Seidenberg from contributing to the Bruins' postseason efforts that spring.
In the months leading up to this past season's championship drive -- and in the time since Boston began its title defense -- Seidenberg has been everything the Bruins thought he could be -- and more -- while getting the opportunities to play he didn't receive at previous NHL stops.
"It's really hard to find guys like Dennis that are always ready to play, they're in good shape, come into training camp and maintain their shape during the season," Chara said. "He's very solid, a very reliable guy. He doesn't do any extreme things, but he also doesn't have games where he's totally off. He's very steady, very reliable in crucial situations, and actually any situation you put him in -- power play, 5-on-3, 5-on-4 -- he's just very flexible to play that role."
Injuries and a lack of opportunity might've kept Seidenberg in the shadows before the Bruins' historic victory this past June. However his he-man efforts that postseason have now made him a household name, as he's proven to be more than a one-postseason wonder with an all-round outstanding season in 2011-12.
He's relishing his renown and looking forward to earning bigger accolades for the Bruins in the upcoming postseason.
"You get the most coverage in the playoffs and everybody's looking at you. People see what you can do," he said. "And I always thought I had that in me, but I guess I just needed the right stage to show it. So, it was a good feeling to finally get some recognition and it's always fun to keep backing it up. I enjoy it."