It'll be Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg leading the way for the Bruins if a lengthy playoff run is to be a reality. In the Game 1 win over Toronto, Chara played 23:38 and Seidenberg saw 21:32. Those numbers will only grow. Even last night, they're probably higher if it's not 4-1 after the second period.
Despite the excellence this pair will display -- save the bumbling on the first penalty kill of the playoffs -- the four remaining Bruins defensemen need to play consistent, smart hockey. The identity of those four seemed certain for most of the season. Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton rounded out the corps more often than not.
Then April 3 rolled around. Lost in all the Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr shouting was the acquisition of Wade Redden from St. Louis for a conditional seventh round draft. The deal went without much in the way of coverage. Just a nice pick up by Peter Chiarelli, an insurance policy, basically, should someone go down.
Not so much.
As the regular season ended, and Hamilton's fatigue in his first professional season became an issue, Bruins coach Claude Julien inserted Redden into the lineup. Not only did the veteran battle for every minute of ice he received, but he played pretty well, too.
His nod for Wednesday's Game 1, similarly, went unnoticed, because, of course, it's Chara and Seidenberg that need to be at their best for the Bruins to be at theirs. A goal and an assist from Redden in the first period didn't exactly hurt, though.
He played 16:57 on Wednesday night, and that number probably won't rise too much at any point in the playoffs save for injuries or suspensions (i.e. what should happen to Andrew Ference for this). Making the most of those minutes by, say, contributing offense and playing a generally solid defensive game will make Redden an unlikely piece of team that expects to win a championship -- something's Redden's never done.
Redden's journey through the NHL has been an odd one. In fact, he is indirectly responsible for Zdeno Chara becoming the Bruins' captain. Since Ottawa chose to re-sign Redden and let Chara walk, their careers moved in starkly different directions.
When the Bruins' acquired him from St. Louis, which landed him in a trade from the new York Rangers, it just looked a nice addition that rounded out an already strong roster. Should the Bruins piece together some wins over these next few weeks, Redden becomes one of those guys a team tries to win for.
Redden's performance wasn't without flaws, of course. He was caught way up ice on Tyler Bozak's breakaway in the second period. Other moments of frustration came when some of the Leafs' speedier forwards worked the 35-year-old Redden in open ice. Still, it's clear that he adds some things that any team, especially one with the most dreadful power play, could use.
On his goal and assist last night, he never hesitated in getting the puck on the net. His goal, a slap shot from the left point, probably should've landed in James Reimer's glove. While his assist came on another saveable shot that Nathan Horton redirected through Reimer's legs. Simple stuff, really, but Redden made these players without question, calmly firing the puck on goal.
Adding Jagr at the deadline gave the Bruins another dynamic scoring threat. It was a great move by Chiarelli and his staff. If the Bruins are going to win this series and the next couple, expect Jagr to make his presence known a few times. But Redden is fully capable of influencing hockey games. Even at 35 years old, even after spending parts of two seasons in the AHL because he vastly underperformed his contract with New York, Redden's still got it. Not all of it. Definitely enough to chip in a goal and an assist in an important playoff opener, though.