Dennis Seidenberg can play a shutdown role on the right side of Zdeno Chara. He can skate on the right side on the second defense pairing. Like he did in last night’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, Seidenberg can switch to the left side, where he skated alongside Steven Kampfer.
Such flexibility, combined with a no-nonsense defense-first game, make Seidenberg nearly as valuable as goaltender Tim Thomas in the opinion of his boss.
“To me, arguably after Tim Thomas, he could have easily been, in our mind, the guy that could have been the Conn Smythe winner,’’ said coach Claude Julien
“He flew a little bit under the radar with a lot of people. But certainly not with us. Outstanding. Certainly a solid player for us.
“He’s a guy that’s comfortable on either side. You can use him right or left. At the same time, if you split him and Z, it certainly gives us strong stability in our defensive pairings as well. He’s a pretty big presence back there for us and what he can bring to the table every night.”
Landing Mark Recchi and a second-round pick from Tampa Bay for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums might qualify as general manager Peter Chiarelli’s sharpest trade. Getting Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew from Calgary for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau, and a pick also could qualify among his best deals.
But acquiring Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski — the latter projects to be a top-four defenseman — from Florida for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and the second-rounder from the Recchi trade might qualify as Chiarelli’s greatest stick-’em-up heist.
In Boston’s postseason run to the championship, Seidenberg scored one goal and had 10 assists while averaging 27:37 of ice time per game.
The staff’s best decision of the playoffs came in Game 3 of the first round, when they opted to pair Chara with Seidenberg. The duo played against every top line. During the Stanley Cup Final, they turned the Canucks’ Henrik and Daniel Sedin into ghosts.
All this from a defenseman who went nearly the entire 2009 offseason unemployed before signing a one-year deal with Florida.
If Seidenberg can resume his level of play from last year’s postseason, he will be the best No. 2 defenseman Chiarelli has had during his stewardship in Boston. Seidenberg is as subtle as a block of granite, which is what has made his performance so effective.
”I think part of the strength of his game is the simplicity of his game,’’ Chiarelli said. “It’s straight-line, no-nonsense, puck-moving physical play. I think to want more would take away from the essence of his game.”
Chara is the blue line’s strongman, the Norris Trophy candidate. But in some ways, Seidenberg is more valuable than Chara because of his versatility.
It’s unlikely that Chara and Seidenberg will start the season together.
Julien prefers to spread out the defense’s minutes instead of creating a top-heavy pairing. But whenever he needs an instant shutdown pairing, Chara and Seidenberg will be reunited.
Seidenberg has been strongest on the right side. But because the Bruins have three right-shot defensemen in Joe Corvo, Johnny Boychuk, and Adam McQuaid, Seidenberg most likely will start the year on the left side on the No. 2 pairing.
”With his physical conditioning and how strong he is, he might be able to play beyond his current contract. I’m sure he wants to,” said Chiarelli of Seidenberg, who has two years remaining on his deal.
”It wouldn’t surprise me. With him, it’s tough to say he’s at his pinnacle. I think he’s reached a really good level. If he stays at this level, I’d be really happy.”
The Bruins have yet to decide whether to make their next round of cuts before or after tomorrow’s home game against Ottawa. Neither Bartkowski nor Kampfer, the two candidates for the No. 7 job, will be included in the next wave of Providence-bound players.
”It could,” said Chiarelli when asked if the Bartkowski-or-Kampfer decision could go down to the wire.
David Warsofsky, Colby Cohen, and Zach McKelvie, the defensemen in the tier below Bartkowski and Kampfer, will start the year in Providence. While they haven’t been the top candidates for the spare defenseman job, the Bruins have been pleased with their progress. If injuries occur, Warsofsky, Cohen, and McKelvie have shown short-term fill-in capabilities.
”The one thing we know is that those guys are all young players, and they’re also easy guys to bring in and send back without waivers,” Julien said. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that it only has to be one guy that’s the seventh player. It could be. But it doesn’t mean it has to be.”
Caron steps up
Jordan Caron started last night on a grinding line with Chris Kelly and Jamie Arniel. In the third period, with the Bruins down, 1-0, Caron switched places with Milan Lucic and skated on the first line with David Krejci and Tyler Seguin.
The move paid off. During a third-period power play, Caron screened Carey Price on a Bartkowski shot. Bartkowski’s shot didn’t go in, but Seguin scored on the rebound to tie it at 1-1. Caron (four shots) also had several goal-mouth bids that Price turned aside.
”I thought he deserved it to start with,” Julien said of Caron’s promotion. “But I also wanted to see him on a higher line and see how well he could adapt. I thought he did a great job, obviously. He had a couple good chances in the third. He was one of the guys that helped us get that first goal.”
Chris Clark scored the game-winner off a clever Max Sauve feed.
Sauve learning role
Last night, Sauve skated with Rich Peverley and Clark. The night before, Sauve was the left wing alongside Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. The team’s message to Sauve is that he must work on his grinding game before he earns a top-six role in either Boston or Providence. Long-term, the Bruins believe Sauve has some elements of Marco Sturm in his game — a skilled and speedy left wing with some jam and two-way presence ... Tuukka Rask stopped 31 of 32 shots to earn his first preseason win.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.