Commentary

Seidenberg excels in playoffs

Updated: April 17, 2012, 3:54 PM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

WASHINGTON -- Don't ask Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to talk about himself, or try to explain why he plays so well in big games, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Leave that to Bruins coach Claude Julien.

"He's been a guy who has always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us," Julien said. "He's a big-game player and has been known as a big-game player and he continues to show that."

The defensive combination of Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara completely frustrates opponents and was a major factor in the Bruins' Stanley Cup title last season. Chara gets a lot of credit, which he should, but Seidenberg deserves plenty of praise, too, for his play in all areas of the ice.

"Zdeno is as good as you'll get as a defenseman, but when it comes to playoff time, Seids isn't that far behind him, if at all," Julien said. "He's been a really good player for us, a real force, he's physical and he's loving these kinds of challenges. He thrives on it and you need those kinds of players to succeed."

[+] EnlargeSeidenberg & Chara
Geoff Burke/US PresswireDennis Seidenberg assisted on Zdeno Chara's game-winning goal late in Game 3.

When Julien decided to pair Seidenberg and Chara during the first round of the playoffs last season, the Bruins needed them to shut down the opposition's top lines. At the time, the coach said he felt comfortable with the other defensive pairings and that allowed Seidenberg and Chara to remain together as a pair until they hoisted the Cup on June 15.

Before coming to the Bruins via trade with Florida for Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a second-round pick, Seidenberg played for four different NHL organizations, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Carolina and the Panthers.

Watching his body of work with the Bruins, it's amazing other teams would want to part ways with the German native, who turns 31 in July.

He's humble. He's smart. He's a good teammate. He plays the game hard and the right way.

When current Bruins teammate Chris Kelly was playing for the Ottawa Senators and Seidenberg was a member of the Hurricanes, Kelly remembers being on the receiving end of a major collision with the burly defenseman.

"It doesn't feel great," Kelly said. "I remember him hitting me in the corner when he played for Carolina. It was such a great hit and I ended up on the ice. He's a big, strong guy. He plays physical and he plays honest. He's exactly what the NHL wants in a big, strong defenseman."

The NHL and its fans are getting an exciting show of pure strength and force in this series between the Bruins and the Washington Capitals, especially when the puck is in the vicinity of Seidenberg and Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

"They are two big, strong men going at it and being physical," Kelly said of the matchup between Seidenberg and Ovechkin. "There's no added slashing. They're just two big guys battling hard."

In all three games so far in this series, the two have found themselves on the ice together a lot of the time, and the collisions have made for spectacular highlights. Seidenberg is listed at 6-foot-1, an inch shorter than Ovechkin. But the Capitals winger has nearly 25 pounds on Seidenberg (234 pounds to 210).

More often than not, Seidenberg has been the one off his skates. But he's not concerned with who is lying on his backside, as long as the thunderous impact slows down Ovechkin and doesn't allow him time and space on the ice.

"He's very strong but I keep trying and maybe it'll happen once [knocking Ovechkin down]," Seidenberg said with a laugh. "It's fun playing against him. He plays a fair game and that's what makes it a good battle."

Early in Game 3 the two were involved in another major collision, and again, Seidenberg took the brunt of it, but did his job.

"It was a tough one," Seidenberg admitted. "I definitely felt that one, but I saw him coming. I couldn't do much more. He's very strong and thick and I couldn't do anything else."

Any time the Bruins have played the Capitals, a lot has been made of Chara's ability to stop Ovechkin, something that obviously frustrates the highly skilled forward. So it's understandable why Ovechkin is taking runs at Seidenberg.

"That's obviously smarter," Seidenberg said. "You can either go against a guy who is 6-foot-9 or going against a guy who is barley 6-foot. I would do the same thing. It's just smart hockey."

When it comes to being a steady and reliable defenseman, Seidenberg is earning all A's.

"He's one of those guys in the playoffs, his whole game comes around," Julien said. "We shouldn't perceive that as a guy who doesn't do enough during the regular season. He's more of a guy, who when the chips are down and the games are big, he just elevates his game to a level where some players can and some players can't. He's one of those guys who can."

Overall, Seidenberg is the complete package and it's showing through the first three games of the 2012 playoffs.

"When he's confident, he's as good of a defenseman than anyone in this league," Julien said.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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