People always talk about putting their best foot forward and taking it one step at a time.
The Boston Bruins used defenseman Dennis Seidenberg’s left skate.
For Seidenberg, his feet have been the single best asset to his game while playing with the Bruins. While people readily remember Michael Ryder’s glove save in the playoffs, and Zdeno Chara’s block in the later games, very rarely does Seidenberg get mentioned for his consistent defensive foot techniques.
Coach Claude Julien mentioned time and time again over last season that whenever the defense got in front of the puck and blocked shots, good things always abounded from it. Well, Seidenberg had a team high 174 blocked shots in the regular season (8th best in the NHL), and 74 in the historical playoff run.
Perhaps the most obvious of his 74 blocked shots in the playoffs this year came in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. An initial save by goaltender Tim Thomas squirted out front to a hungry and waiting Steven Stamkos who saw a gaping, open net.
Only thing is, Seidenberg saw it too.
Seidenberg stuck his left skate out to poke the puck out of the reach of Stamkos and saved a goal that would have had Tampa Bay up 4-2 with 56 seconds left in the second period.
“I’m just trying to get in shooting lanes and somehow the puck hits me,” Seidenberg said about his consistent ability to annoy shooters. “You have to look at the shooter and if he has a lot of time, you might want to step away or to the side and let the goalie take it but if he doesn’t have a lot of time and doesn’t have a lot of pressure behind the shot, you have a good chance of blocking it.”
But this isn’t the first time the 6’1, 210-lb defenseman has used his feet in sport. Growing up in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, Seidenberg also found a love for soccer, the sport that he said “is like a religion” in Germany. But instead of the thousands of millions of Germans who picked up on that sport, Seidenberg found his niché on the ice thanks to his Dad.
“I did play soccer, but my dad was a physical therapist of a Division I [hockey] team back then in Germany,” Seidenberg said. “So he took me to the rink and that’s how I started getting into hockey, and I got stuck with it.”
Many athletes at every level try and balance out skills by taking part in a sport different than their main activity. Seidenberg for example played both soccer and tennis as well as hockey. In fact, he mentioned in his player profile that the one thing his fellow teammates wouldn’t know about him is how good he is at tennis.
“I love playing soccer, but I guess at that time I had more fun playing hockey.” Seidenberg said. “I play tennis as well, and I guess everything combined definitely helps with the overall coordination and foot work.”
Taking that jump into hockey wasn’t the most popular course of action in Germany. Growing up, Seidenberg didn’t have very many role models to look up to in the hockey world, and he didn’t even look to the NHL for players to admire or imitate.
“I grew up watching my home team in Germany and I like all those guys but it wasn’t really me idolizing them or me saying I want to be like those guys,” Seidenberg said with a shrug. “I just didn’t really have [a role model].”
Seidenberg became just the second German in the NHL to win the Stanley Cup. Uwe Krupp was the first back in 1996, winning with the Colorado Avalanche. While Seidenberg noted that it was a big story back at that time, he also mentioned that hockey in Germany is still a small sport that doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition. However, he was thrilled that he was able to be a part of history in both the hockey world, and in Germany, commenting that he “should have brought the Cup back to Germany.”
“It’s nice to be only the second German after Uwe Krupp,” Seidenberg said. “Winning a Cup is something special and it’s nice that it happened to me, so it’s definitely a good feeling.”
The Bruins are hoping those good feelings will continue into the preseason and help give him the kind of season he had last year.
With the defensive pairings still undecided for the Bruins at this point, and Julien’s extra emphasis on the defense pinching in with the forwards, Seidenberg will fit in easily wherever he ends up. The Bruins have no shortage of veteran defenseman, and with the addition of Joe Corvo and return of Steven Kampfer and multiple prospects including Colby Cohen, the defense is not waning in talent.
In tonight’s preseason matchup against the Islanders, Seidenberg will take the ice along with fellow defensemen Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk, Chara, Kampfer and Zach McKelvie.