Bruins

Seidenberg looking to extend playoff performance

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Seidenberg looking to extend playoff performance

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON Even Dennis Seidenberg caught himself a few times this summer watching replays of the Stanley Cup playoff games, and asking himself one simple question.

Who was that guy wearing the No. 44 Bruins sweater playing with strength, poise, tenacity, tireless endurance and such a smoothness carrying pucks up and down the ice?

The German defenseman knew, of course, that he was watching himself play the best hockey of his NHL career amid Bostons run to Stanley Cup glory, and that hed be hard-pressed to operate at such a high level jumping into this season.

When I saw those games on NHL Network all the time and Id turn and just watch for a second. It seemed like everything was so simple and nothing seemed to faze me, or us, said Seidenberg. You think that you can do that anytime you want, but when you get on the ice you dont always have that calmness and composure with the puck.
Its tough to get back when youve been off the ice for a couple of months.

The burning question becomes whether Seidenberg can elevate his regular season for longer stretches to match the super defenseman that emerged for Boston during the postseason. Hes done it in big games and has all of the physical attributes to be a top pair defenseman, and the former Flyers, Hurricanes and Panthers blueliner now has the health that always eluded him earlier in his career.

So this upcoming season could be the year where it all comes together after his breakout 25 game body of work leading up to the Cup.

The 29-year-old looked a bit different from the playoff beast as he hopped off the ice Friday morning following captains practice. There was a bit more huffing and puffing involved as hes engaged in his annual transformation from weight room training to hockey shape, but its the same player with the steady skill set and ability to elevate his game during the postseason.

Seidenberg has also always been a hockey player thats been extremely tough on himself as an individual, and doesnt normally give himself the credit he deserves for his skill package as a puck-moving defenseman. That meant his confidence wasnt always brimming at its highest possible level, but thats something Seidenberg might just be able to hold onto after watching how well he played in the postseason.

Personally I feel really good. I feel even better than I did last year, said Seidenberg. I know that I can get it all back. Its just a matter of getting that feel and that confidence going again. That shouldnt be a problem for me.

You get used to playing the big minutes. You get smarter and you get more efficient. Somehow it would work, but I hadnt really thought it much.

Some argued that Seidenberg deserved Conn Smythe dark horse consideration given the 27:38 of ice time he played in the 25 playoff games, and his tone-setting physicality as Zdeno Charas defenseman partner made them the perfect shutdown pair during the postseason.

It was definitely on my mind over the summer, but at the end of the day it doesnt really matter whether Im paired with him or not, said Seidenberg. I have to play my game and focus on my tasks. I just have to focus on my game and keep trying to get better.

Did Seidenberg get a little spoiled skating with Chara during the playoffs after the two were separated for the entirety of the regular season?

Every time youre on the ice with him you get spoiled, said Seidenberg. I learned so much from him. Its a lot of fun being paired with Chara.

It would be very tempting for the Bruins to put those two stalwart defensemen together during the season, and see just how good they could be at shutting down the NHLs best players. But it could also be something that makes sense in a winner-take-all postseason setting, but doesnt allow for enough balance during an 82-game regular season.

Its something for the Bs coaching staff to tinker with during the upcoming training camp, and its up to the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg to see if he can build on a solid 32-point regular season with a plus-3 rating.

Seidenberg showed he could be even better than that in the playoffs, however, and the Bruins will need the playoff Seidenberg more often if they hope to stave off their Stanley Cup hangover this year.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.