Bruins notes: Kaberle finally turns corner

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Bruins notes: Kaberle finally turns corner

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Just when the Tomas Kaberle bashing was starting to reach Wideman-like levels, something miraculous happened for the puck moving defenseman.

The light bulb actually started going off for the longtime Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, and he put up respectable back-to-back efforts against the Tampa Bay Lightning after a shaky start. Its imperative that a defenseman shake off his mistakes, and use that selective memory to keep pushing forward while breaking out with the puck and slicing through the bogged down neutral zone.

Kaberle has done that recently, and its making a difference.

I know everybody here is rooting for me and everybody here is playing hard and trying to do well, said Kaberle. It means a lot. Everybody cares about each other here and they should be. Not every game is going to be your best game, and youre not always going to be successful.

But Im trying to play my game. I feel a little better the last two games and its important for me to get my confidence back. We always talk a lot before the game about what were trying to do out there. There are a lot of plays to be made out there. Its not necessarily about making one play.

The uptick in play -- which saw him notch a pair of power play assists in the Game Two win at TD Garden and perhaps develop some chemistry with Tyler Seguin on the man advantage coincided with a bit of a heart-to-hear conversation between the embattled defenseman and the Bruins head coach.

The heart of the talk: dont get weighed down by what is or isnt happening on the power play, and simply focus on the rest of the hockey game. That talk appears to have gained some traction for Kaberle, who has listened up and started making plays with confidence in all three zones.

I think he's played really well in the last couple of games, said Claude Julien. We had a conversation about maybe taking some pressure off his shoulders about everything that wasn't going right about the power play. Fingers kept pointing at him. He's more than just that.

He's a good puck mover. He can play a pretty good game when he's on top of it. And we have confidence in him.

Kaberle struggled in Game One while playing more than 17 minutes of ice time, and its probably not a coincidence that his uptick in play over the last two games is linked to his minutes getting carefully rationed out. In the battle of match-ups and pitting strength against strength, the pairing of Kaberle and McQuaid is used selectively to blossoming results against the Bolts.

Kaberle himself now has five assists and a plus-6 in 14 playoff games with the Bruins, but still has only 18 shots on net. At this point its been determined that the 33-year-old isnt going to be sniping too many pucks on the man advantage, but he has shown some good creativity recently while moving his feet and keeping the defense guessing as to what hes doing with the puck.

In his own words Kaberle got way too stationary with his positioning, and was getting wildly predictable while letting his power play unit get bogged down by it all.

Sometimes going away from the set play is going to make the difference and you dont want to do the same thing all the time, said Kaberle. Then things get stationary and they know where youre going to go.

Sometimes you need to make the play that they dont expect.

There were moments in the last two games where Kaberle was moving all around the ice on the PP from his point position to the half-wall and then back again. That movement and rotation began opening things up for his teammates, and created some of the seams that led to his two PP helpers.

I think he's relaxed a little bit which has given him some confidence in his game. I think the last two games he's been a better player. He's passing. He's more poised. He's a little bit more aggressive, said Julien. He's not sitting on his heels. I think that's made a big difference in his game. We say it almost every day when we talk about players, it's about confidence. That word "confidence" plays big.

Plenty of cameras and recorders out for Shane Hnidy and goalie coach Bob Essensa as talk stirred up about the Atlanta Thrashers moving into Winnipeg starting next season with Hnidy from the Winnipeg area and Essensa proud of his six seasons as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. The move isnt official and hasnt been approved by the NHL Board of Governors, but it appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Shawn Thornton was kind enough to assist reporters in doing their jobs as he continuously yelled Shane Hnidy is available, and hes from Winnipeg! during media availability in the visitors dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum. When Hnidy and Essensa did speak, they both spoke with uniform joy that NHL hockey was finally returning to a place that had been mourning its loss since the day it left.

Winnipeg might not be a booming metropolis or a city teeming with night life, but its a city that will wrap both arms lovingly around their hockey club.

The support is there. The economy is different than it was. Youve got the building in place and theyve got a great ownership group that knows how to run things successfully, said Hnidy, who makes his off-season home in Winnipeg. Anybody thats played on the (AHL) Moose had nothing but great things to say about it. Guys love playing there. Most of the negative stuff that comes out is from people who arent familiar with the area.

From a coachs standpoint as Essensa is coming from, a city like Winnipeg is the perfect place to have a group of players focused on winning hockey games rather than where to hit on Friday or Saturday night postgame.

Theres something to be said for those small-town Canadian teams that the players and the community really rally around, he said. They dont have maybe as many distractions as a big American city. From that standpoint, youre focused on hockey, youre focused on your teammates and I think the team and the city is better off because of it.

The biggest question is whether players go to Manitoba if they have other alternatives, but its not like there was a steady stream of players gravitating toward Atlanta once they hit free agency. The lure of playing for a Canadian team with Canadian-born players is a pretty strong thing.

Its tough to say. Certainly, with salary caps and whatnot, if Im getting x amount of dollars in Tampa and the same amount of money in Winnipeg, maybe Im leaning towards going to Tampa but, like I said, I think theres a quality to playing to Winnipeg that cant be matched anywhere else.

Tim Thomas was the subject of questions around the Bruins room today despite his absence from practice, and Claude Julien had a pretty keen observation when it came to his 37-year-olds motivations in the playoffs. Its pretty clear Thomas knows he may not get many cracks at the Stanley Cup, and this is his time to make it happen while hes young enough and dominant enough to still get his name on the shining piece of hockey heaven.

You have to remember, where Tim is right now, he's never been there, said Julien. He's accomplishing things that he hasn't accomplished yet, like a lot of players on the team, like a lot of us. We want to move forward.

There's a lot more than -- for him, it's nice to win Vezina trophies, but to win the Stanley Cup would be nice for him as well. So everybody is pushing in that direction. I think he's one of those guys that, where he's at in his career, his age and everything else, when those opportunities come, you want to make sure you make the best of it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.