Dennis Seidenberg Must Step Up For Bruins In Zdeno Chara’s Absence

SeidenbergBOSTON — Zdeno Chara’s absence from the Bruins’ blue line leaves head coach Claude Julien without a dominant shut-down defenseman.

Dennis Seidenberg has played in this role many times in the past for Boston, often alongside Chara in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But the German blueliner missed most of the 2013-14 campaign after undergoing major knee surgery, and it’s taken some time for him to return to a top-pairing level this season.

“I don’t think he’s struggling. I think he’s finding his game,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday when asked about Seidenberg. “He’s another one that — we’ve got some guys that have missed some time and recovering from injuries, and he’s one of them. He’s finding his game. I’ve actually liked that pair. I thought that pair has been pretty good. He’s slowly finding his game.

“If you look closely at his game, he’s slowly getting his legs, he’s slowly getting his timing back, slowly getting his passing back. I think you see more offensive chances from him. He’s skating the puck more. He will get better.”

Chara isn’t the only defensive defenseman out of Boston’s lineup. Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated right shoulder, leaving the Bruins without much physicality on the blue line. As a result, Seidenberg must help fill the void and play a more important role on the penalty kill and at even strength. He’s currently third in short-handed ice time per game (2:11) and leads the team with 18 blocked shots. The 33-year-old veteran also is third in total ice time per game (20:45).

Earlier in the season, Seidenberg was losing a lot of one-on-one battles and didn’t make much of an impact offensively. That’s changed a bit over the last week, with the veteran D-man tallying 12 shots on goal and a plus-5 rating in his last three games.

As the chart below shows, Seidenberg has faced the third-toughest competition among Bruins defensemen, while also starting the majority of his 5-on-5 shifts in the defensive zone. Both trends are likely to continue as long as Chara remains sidelined.

via War on Ice

via War on Ice

Seidenberg’s possession numbers (44.58 Corsi-for percentage) for the entire season (nine games) aren’t very good. But he’s improved over the last week and has been able to drive puck possession despite starting the majority of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone.

Seidenberg might not be ready for a top-pairing role this early in the season, but the Bruins don’t have a choice right now. He’s their most experienced defenseman in regards to playing a shutdown position, killing penalties, facing the opponent’s top lines and playing key minutes late in games.

Seidenberg’s performance over the next month will be an important factor in the Bruins’ ability to play quality defense with a blue line that currently consists of five players age 26 or younger — four of whom have less than 100 games of NHL experience.

“I think we’ve been woken up quite a bit already in the first few games,” Seidenberg said when asked if Chara’s injury will serve as a wakeup call for the team. “We have high expectations in this locker room, and where we are right now is not where we want to be.”

Photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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