Editor's Note: Over the next few weeks, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be taking an in-depth look at one Bruins player each day, analyzing that player's performance last season and outlook heading into the 2011-12 campaign.
Dennis Seidenberg doesn't play the kind of game that attracts a lot of attention.
He chips in a decent amount of offense from the blue line, but his forte is the less glamorous work in his own zone. But while he may get overlooked by some, his teammates and coaches recognized that he was one of the most important contributors to Boston's run to the Cup this spring. And after that playoff performance, Seidenberg's strong play is no longer such a well-kept secret in the hockey world.
2010-11 stats: 81 games, 7-25-32, plus-3, 41 PIMs
Playoffs: 25 games, 1-10-11, plus-12, 31 PIMs
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14, $3.25 million cap hit
Preseason expectations: Despite missing the postseason after having his forearm sliced by a skate, Seidenberg impressed the Bruins enough after being acquired at the trade deadline to earn a four-year contract to stay in Boston. The Bruins were counting on a healthy Seidenberg to be a steady shutdown defender logging big minutes on one of the club's top two pairings.
Regular-season evaluation: Seidenberg was as steady as ever with another solid regular-season campaign. He matched his career high for points with his second straight 32-point campaign and set a new personal mark with seven goals. One of those came on arguably the most creative and memorable goals of the year when he scored from center ice against Tampa Bay in December, faking a dump-in to the corner to draw Lightning goalie Mike Smith out of the crease, then firing the puck into the vacated net. The offense was always welcome, but it was Seidenberg's play in his own zone that was once again his strongest asset. His blocked shot totals slipped a bit from his league-leading 215 in 2009-10 to 174 this season, which was still good for eighth in the NHL. He remained a physical force, with 161 hits and even found himself involved in just his third career fight against Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil. Seidenberg also did more than live up to expectations in terms of logging minutes, finishing 18th in the league in total ice time (1,907:07), an average of 23:32 a game.
Playoff evaluation: Even after arguably his strongest regular season, Seidenberg found a way to elevate his game even further in the playoffs. Claude Julien's decision to shuffle the defense pairs and put Seidenberg back with Zdeno Chara in Game 3 of the opening round may have been the most important tactical move of the postseason. The Bruins were facing an 0-2 deficit against the Habs and heading to Montreal for the next two games, but the tandem of Chara and Seidenberg helped turn things around. That duo was the best shutdown pair in the league throughout the playoffs, and Seidenberg's strong play was one of the major reasons the Bruins won the Cup. He and Chara were especially effective in shutting down Vancouver's high-scoring Sedin twins in the Final. Seidenberg's ice time in the playoffs increased to 27:37 a game, just two seconds fewer than Chara's average, and his total ice time of 690:49 was the most in the league. He made full use of the extra time, tying for the club lead in scoring among defensemen with 11 points and adding 74 more blocked shots and 57 hits. He even had another fight, taking on Ryan Kesler in the Final.
2011-12 outlook: The Bruins certainly have no regrets about locking up Seidenberg to that four-year deal last summer now. He should remain a key part of their defense for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see if Julien keeps him with Chara as a regular pairing all season long, or only puts them together in certain situations when needed. It will be hard to split them up after seeing how effective they are together. Even Chara noted during the playoffs that, "To be paired up with him just gives me more confidence." But the Bruins may also want to have Chara and Seidenberg each anchor a pairing for better balance and also perhaps ease their workload a bit to keep them ready for what they hope will be another long playoff run. Seidenberg stated after the playoffs that he did not feel fatigued despite his heavy workload, but seeing how he responds coming off a short offseason will be a key for Boston. Still, after the performance he put together in the postseason, it appears a safe bet to count on Seidenberg remaining among the league's top shutdown defenders for another year.
Coming Wednesday, August 3: Andrew Ference