By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) – There were many candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup championship last season.

But when your title run is backstopped by the best goaltender in the world, everyone else is pretty much a runner-up for that award. So no one could argue with Tim Thomas taking home that hardware.

Among those on people’s lips in addition to Thomas, however, was Dennis Seidenberg. He logged just one second less per game than captain Zdeno Chara, finished with one goal and 11 points in 25 games, and helped shut down the Sedin brothers during the Stanley Cup Final.

Through three games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Seidenberg might actually be outperforming the 2011 version of him, and making an early case as this year’s Conn Smythe. After Boston’s 4-3 win, the Bruins now lead the series 2-1.

In Game 3 Monday night in Washington, Seidenberg made a loud case for more notoriety. He did a little bit of everything, including keeping the puck alive down low and then screening the goaltender on Zdeno Chara’s game-winning goal with 1:53 left in regulation.

Seidenberg was also involved in keeping the puck alive along the way before Brian Rolston’s go-ahead goal 1:02 into the third period.

Along the way, he drew a penalty on Nicklas Backstrom to cancel out a Washington power play in the second period. Seidenberg was credited with four hits and four blocked shots throughout his 23:39 of ice time.

Sure, he and Chara fell asleep and let Brooks Laich get loose for the game-tying breakaway goal in the third. And Seidenberg also picked up a roughing call on Alexander Ovechkin. But the Bruins bailed out their teammate by killing off that penalty, and he bailed them out for the rest of the time he was on the ice.

“I’m not surprised. He’s a strong individual, he can handle the ice time and loves those kind of challenges,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien told NESN after the game about Seidenberg. “He answered the call extremely well.”

Despite the first change, the Bruins still got Seidenberg and Chara out against Ovechkin’s line most of the night, and the battle was just as physical and intense as it had been in Boston during the first two games. Seidenberg might’ve been on the receiving end of the blows a little more, but nothing seems to slow him down.

After his remarkable 2011 playoff run, Seidenberg proved he wasn’t a three-month wonder and continued to emerge as a legitimate No. 2 defenseman during the 2011-12 season. He built up confidence on the way to the Cup that hasn’t dissipated.

“I always thought I had that in me,” Seidenberg told me before the Capitals series started, “but I guess I just needed the right stage to show it.”

Well, Seidenberg’s back on stage and he’s starting to hog the spotlight – much to the Bruins’ satisfaction.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for He and also contributes coverage to and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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