Having Seidenberg on their side has helped

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / May 7, 2011

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Take a look at the numbers for the Bruins during their postseason run. It turns out it’s defenseman Dennis Seidenberg who’s got the most.

Not points. Going into Game 4 against the Flyers last night, Seidenberg had picked up a goal and five assists in their first two series.

But those aren’t the totals that jump off the page. It’s the amount of time played per game: Seidenberg had averaged 28 minutes 31 seconds a game, just a few ticks short of Zdeno Chara’s 28:58.

Paired on the blue line with Chara, a Norris Trophy candidate, it might be easy for Seidenberg to skate in the 6-foot-9-inch captain’s shadow. But not this year. Seidenberg had a plus-7 rating, while taking 29 shots, dishing 23 hits, and blocking 31 shots. In the first three games against the Flyers, he’d been even better, registering a plus-9.

Seidenberg, who missed last season’s disastrous playoff free fall while recovering from severed wrist tendons, had a consistent regular-season performance as one of the Bruins’ top four defensemen. In 81 games, he had a career-best seven goals and 25 assists.

But the jack-of-all-trades of the regular season has become a master in the postseason. Generally steady in all facets of the game, he has been smooth in every one.

Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn’t think Seidenberg hasn’t gotten that much better, he just thinks the 29-year-old, playing his ninth NHL season, is finally getting recognition for his skills and stamina from a wider audience.

“What he’s given us is what we knew he could do for us,’’ Julien said after practice at TD Garden Thursday.

“We’d seen him do that for other teams. He’s a player that, as I mentioned numerous times, has played extremely well in big games. And when he’s at his best and he’s very confident, he’s an elite defenseman.

“I think people are starting to recognize that, whether it’s his strength along the boards battling one-on-one, whether it’s his ability to block shots, whether it’s his shot from the point and his ability to move the puck up the ice.

“And even when he does pinch, he keeps the puck on his stick and makes something happen with it.

“So he’s got a lot of upside to his game. And for us, we saw that when our management talked about that when they acquired him. And he’s given us exactly what we expected from him.’’

After a shaky start against Montreal, a pair of losses, the Bruins rearranged some of their pairings. Seidenberg was reunited with Chara. The duo also played together during much of the regular season — and the changes have helped get the Bruins going.

“I definitely feel more comfortable now,’’ Seidenberg said. “We tried too hard the first couple of games [against Montreal]. That first [series] was tough because we were down, 2-0, and we were all nervous, and gripping our sticks. When you’re not playing your style, you’re trying too hard.’’

The Bruins took Game 1 from the Flyers, then got in trouble early in Game 2.

“Game 2 was just a whole lot of ups and downs, a lot of battling,’’ said Seidenberg. “In Game 3, we played smarter, more efficient. [Wednesday] night [in the Bruins’ 5-1 Game 3 victory], I felt really comfortable with the minutes I played, whereas in Game 2, I was dying — whether it was my body or the whole team game that made it more exhausting.’’

Game 2 was the 52-shot game — from the Flyers — and the Bruins spent most of the game running after the faster Philadelphia forwards. Only a superb performance from goalie Tim Thomas saved them.

“It makes the whole team game harder when guys are going by you,’’ said Seidenberg. “It was a lot more chasing.’’

Last season, not a lot was said about Seidenberg’s absence. This time, a lot is being said about his presence.

“Well, I think you can tell how much we’ve missed this guy, just by the way he’s played for us this year, especially in the playoffs,’’ Julien said before Game 4. “He’s been a big part of our success and he’s a solid defenseman. With that pair playing together, it’s certainly given us a real solid duo and makes it really hard for anybody to play against.’’

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