WILMINGTON, Mass. — He’s too humble to admit it that his numbers could see an uptick in the weeks ahead.
But Bruins veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg stands to benefit from playing on a regular pair with rookie Steve Kampfer.
And Seidenberg (9 points in 28 games) could use a little boost in order to get on pace to score at the 35-point clip the Bruins need him at.
Now I’m not suddenly declaring that after two NHL games (less than that depending on how you rate a game against the New York Islanders) Kampfer is some sort of savior for the Bruins’ back end. I admit that it was just a week and a half ago that I declared Kampfer wasn’t ready to come up and help the parent club after watching him play a game with the Providence (AHL) farm club. In my defense, it was one game, it was the third game of a three-in-three, and Kampfer even admitted he had been getting some lucky bounces and still had plenty of room to improve.
That being said, the Kampfer that has emerged on the scene with Boston looks like a guy that might be hard to remove from the lineup even once Mark Stuart is back from his broken hand. Confident and quick, Kampfer so far has shown one ability none of Boston’s other defensemen have shown on a regular basis — the skill to make a quick decision and advance the puck on his first try.
“It’s real good. He’s really poised with the puck, and composed,” Seidenberg, who has had an up-close look at Kampfer as his semi-regular partner in Boston’s often mish-mashed defense rotation, said today after practice. “And that’s easy to play with because he keeps his game simple, and if you keep your game simple it’s the best because you don’t think too much about what your play is going to be. You just go with the flow. And that’s what he does. He carries the puck up the ice and he’s a real smooth skater, so it’s been great.”
Kampfer’s simplicity, which has also shined in the defensive end with his solid positional play, could allow for more complexity among his teammates. Maybe Seidenberg can roam a little freer knowing that Kampfer’s going to hit a forward in stride, tape to tape and the puck’s not going to be coming back at the Bruins in an instant. The forwards, in turn, can be a little more confident turning defense into offense.
Kampfer has also shown a knack for getting pucks through traffic to or around the goal from the point. That’s another bugaboo that has plagued some of Boston’s blueliners during stretches of this and previous seasons.
In short, the generously-listed 5-foot-10, 188-pound Kampfer makes things happen without flash.
Undoubtedly, the NHL will compile a better book on Kampfer and we’ll see how he handles more aggressive forechecks and teams that sport multiple scoring lines in the games ahead. Games later this week against Montreal and Washington will throw Kampfer into the fire. Last Saturday night’s tilt with Philadelphia, though, was a pretty stiff test. And outside of maybe one dangerous giveaway, he passed.
We’ve seen quick bursts of potential stardom from young Bruins smooth-skating rookies before. Matt Lashoff once looked like he might, at the very least, make a serviceable third or fourth defenseman, when skating alongside Zdeno Chara for a stretch of games. By the end of the 2008-09 season, Matt Hunwick looked like a permanent top-four member. I’d argue that while those players have struggled to make a go of it for various reasons in the NHL over the last couple years, the biggest thing they lacked was confidence in their talents and confidence to utilize those talents within the Bruins’ system. That means not just talking about taking care of the defensive zone first, but actually doing it before thinking about offense. So far, Kampfer has been oozing machismo and plying his trade in a way that’ll make him a darling of head coach Claude Julien and his staff for the foreseeable future.
Even if he keeps playing well, Kampfer could be a roster casualty and find himself in Providence once everyone’s healthy down the road. Nonetheless, during the time he’s in Boston’s lineup, Kampfer could be the missing ingredient the team’s offense needs to better support it’s world-class goaltending and suffocating defense.