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.