Why Dennis Seidenberg Is the Unsung Hero of Boston Bruins' Defense in 2013-14

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Why Dennis Seidenberg Is the Unsung Hero of Boston Bruins' Defense in 2013-14
Steve Babineau/Getty Images

While Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg makes sparse appearances on the highlight reel, he had one testament to his essence frozen in photographic fashion this week.

In a gallery of the Bruins’ Monday afternoon shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Globe photographer Jim Davis featured a shot of Seidenberg’s diving denial amidst a visitors’ onslaught. As forward Tyler Johnson cut to the Bruins cage, the 32-year-old blueliner sprawled to sweep the biscuit aside and thus preempt Johnson’s stab at goaltender Tuukka Rask.

The Bolts mustered 11 shots on net while Seidenberg was in action Monday. Most of those bids came from a reasonably long distance, and none came within any of his three minutes and six seconds of penalty-killing duty.

In other words, it was a characteristic day for the man who has easily been the underrated catalyst of Boston’s blue-line brigade so far this season.

Seidenberg is second only to Zdeno Chara for the team lead in terms of cumulative ice time and average shifts per night (27.4). The Bruins have allowed only six goals in Seidenberg’s cumulative 378 minutes and 46 seconds of ice time, which gives him a remarkable 0.95 goals-against average.

That includes zero opposing power-play conversions, despite the fact that he is third on the team in shorthanded ice time with 35 minutes and 23 seconds.

Contrast that with the 17 setbacks overall and the six opposing power-play conversions that have occurred on Chara’s watch in 419:14. Or even the 12 biscuits, including seven on special teams, that have entered the Boston cage with Johnny Boychuk in action, of which he has seen 332 minutes and 11 seconds.

The only Bruins defenseman with a more efficient GAA at the 17-game mark is none other than Dougie Hamilton, Seidenberg’s usual partner. The professional sophomore has logged 295:55 of ice time and brooked only four deductions to his plus/minus rating.

Hamilton’s efficiency has doubtlessly been a product of his frequent assignments with the team’s most dependable defensive elder statesman at the six-week mark of 2013-14. Beyond that, the middle tier’s otherworldly stinginess has crucially influenced Boston’s respectable 11-5-1 record despite the multitude of rough patches the club has hit.

Yes, the Chara-Boychuk tandem is the pair everyone expects to consume the most minutes and to match up with the top line of the opposing offense. But with residual wear and tear from last year’s long playoff run and the short summer, it is scarcely surprising that Chara, in particular, is less rigid than usual.

The captain’s downturn merely amplifies the importance of neutralizing the rest of the opposition’s depth chart. That is exactly what Seidenberg has done in exemplary fashion, and, in turn, he warrants as much mention in any “gives the Bruins a chance to win” statement as Rask himself, if not more.

Adding to the importance of drove deprivation is the fact that the Bruins themselves have not flaunted much depth on a consistent basis lately. Discounting empty-netters, they have only exceeded two regulation goals once in their last seven outings.

Nonetheless, they have confined the opposing offense to two strikes or fewer in five of those seven games, allowing them to go 4-2-1 in that span.

As it happens, three of the six setbacks on Seidenberg’s watch this season have come in a regulation loss that saw Boston authorize three goals. Those fell on Oct. 14 vs. Detroit, Oct. 30 at Pittsburgh and Nov. 2 at the New York Islanders.

When he is involved in a defensive setback (which has also happened on Oct. 17, Oct. 24 and Nov. 9), the Bruins are 2-3-1. When he keeps his adversaries unproductive all night, they are 9-2-0, with two goals against or fewer 10 times out of 11.

The exception to the two-goal limit was a 4-3 loss to New Jersey on Oct. 26, when the Devils burned the Boston penalty kill four times, but never when Seidenberg was on duty. Not for any of his 3:48 of shorthanded ice time or for any of his 20 minutes and 17 seconds overall.

Speaking of penalties, for all of his usual physicality (32 hits), Seidenberg has incurred all of two minor infractions to date this season. Those two infractions and the resultant four minutes spent in the sin bin are the fewest of any of Boston’s six defensive regulars.

Seidenberg did escape potential supplemental discipline last week after he leveled Dallas forward Vernon Fiddler and made contact with the head.

Later that night, Fiddler buried a game-altering penalty shot, which he earned after Seidenberg illicitly impeded him. However, as CBS Boston columnist Michael Hurley observed, “…a bad line change by Zdeno Chara led to Dennis Seidenberg getting stuck behind Vernon Fiddler on a breakaway.”

Another reminder that this is still the quintessential team sport and that one player’s blunder can spawn a problem for anyone else at any time.

Just the same, Seidenberg has not been impeccable nor is he the sole reason the Bruins have retained their stability in the defensive zone.

But with everything evening out as the sample size grows, he easily ranks first in order of effectiveness ahead of any other praetorian guard protecting Rask or Chad Johnson. His recordable output across every sheet speaks to an unmatched blend of toughness and cleanliness.

The resultant efficiency has curbed the consequences of early team choppiness and led the process of paving Boston’s current three-game winning streak and four-game unbeaten streak.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com.

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