Bruins notes: Kaberle on a roll

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Bruins notes: Kaberle on a roll

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Tomas Kaberle has had his ups and downs in a Bruins uniform.

Mostly downs, actually.

But the 33-year-old defenseman also enjoyed a nice little run over the second half of the conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and seems to have finally found his Bruins bearings.

Its probably good timing for the team because the Bs run to the Cup Finals also means that the organization will be sending their conditional 2012 second round draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with prospect Joe Colborne and their 2011 first round pick.

So with the Bruins paying the full freight for their puck-moving defenseman, it meant something tangibly to Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli to see more consistency out of Kaberle when things mattered most.

Chiarelli knows his big trade acquisition has been under fire since arriving in Boston, but he wondered aloud if the long courtship before Kaberle arrived in Boston had something to do with the sky high expectations. The terms puck-moving defenseman and power play quarterback certainly didnt help douse any of the hype for Kaberle, but his wide-eyed play early on didnt help either.

Some of Kaberles best moments have also been glossed over amid the 8.2 percent power play in the playoffs that represents arguably the worst PP in Stanley Cup Finals history and Chiarelli wonders if the Bs would even be readying to play the Canucks if Kaberle werent in Black and Gold.

What hes added to the team is something we didnt have and something that was hard to find . . . almost impossible to find at the trade deadline. Thats the ability to make strong plays with the puck offensively, said Chiarelli. Thats the ability to skate into a trap like we saw this past series. I mean that play he made to Michael Ryder in our first series against Montreal in Game 3 . . . there are maybe five players in this league who can make that pass.

Who knows if we dont get that play? Who knows where we are going to end up in that series. And thats when we were down two-nothing in the third game.

Kaberles ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone and make good decisions was a key against the trap-happy Lightning, and he had a couple of key blocked shots in the decisive Game Seven.

Granted it was only 13 plus minutes of ice time in Game 7 after he played a very solid 19 minutes in the Game Six loss to Tampa Bay, but theres a pattern developing now. In his last five playoff games Kaberle has three assists and a plus-1 rating and had only the one really difficult Game 4 loss where he was overpowered multiple times amid the playoff fury.

Ive seen him skate better against the Tampa Bay series progressively. So hes, part of it is because this, the acquisition, the acquiring of him, although it was done at the trade deadline, it seems like it was two years in the making and it was well-publicized, said Chiarelli. So he comes to this citywith a history already. And a level of expectation that might be way higher than it should be.

But what you can take away from his game -- and what is significant for our team -- is his ability to slow the play down, to see seams, to make passes. But the reason we got him was because we needed that ability.

The Bs manager correctly pointed out that the power play isnt solely Kaberles fault despite the fact hes taken the blame, and a skill playmaker like Kaberle can only do so much with players that arent natural born goal scorers. Theres also the coaching component that needs to take responsibility for drawing up the same PP plays and trotting out the same players.

Kaberle looked at his best on the power play when he was paired with 19-year-old rookie Tyler Seguin but hasnt seen any time with him since they helped set up a Michael Ryder goal way back in Game Two. That speaks to the fact it takes many different factors to get the power play going for the Bs, and Kaberle is just a simple spoke in that B wheel.

Its been much publicized about how much our power play has struggled, but you cant blame Tomas Kaberle for that, said Chiarelli. Hes part of the reason, Im part of the reason, were all part of the reason its struggled, and it has to get better.

Chiarelli was asked about the contributions of Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly since arriving in Boston along with Tomas Kaberle around the NHL trade deadline and its been a little easier to chart the progress of the two forwards. Both were quiet at the end of the regular season, but Kelly had a huge series against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. Peverley has been solid throughout the playoffs while pushing for reps with the Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron line.

So all in all it was a pretty productive trade deadline for the Chiarelli and the Bruins that keeps on giving during the playoffs.

You saw both Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly on the ice in the last shift of Game 7. They are both very reliable players. Peverley can back the D up with his speed and his moves, we needed some of that, said Chiarelli. When we lost Marc Savard he was hard to replace, we had to bring in a couple of things to bolster our forward line-up. With Kelly its strong two-way play, veteran leadership, hes been far in the playoffs before, strong character.

With Peverley its the stuff I talked about. We brought them in early enough where they could assimilate and they were both part of that seven-game road winning streak. They were both part of the little dip there after that, but you see how they gel now in the room, you see them grow through the playoffs around the team.

The day after the Boston Bruins clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 21 years, Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli was still processing all of the information.

There was genuine pride and appreciation for a job well done by his hockey team in vanquishing the Canadiens, Flyers and Lightning all in a row to get to the NHLs final dance, but there was happiness when the time expired, at first when Nathan Horton scored that goal and secondly when the time expired. It was a special feeling. You look over and see the ice, see these guys and watch how they celebrate, how they, how emotional they are. And you look to each, you try to see each of them to see how they would react. And it was just, you felt good for them, you really felt good for them. I genuinely felt a very strong and positively for them. You felt happy for them. Thats how I felt. Then immediately after that feeling passed, I realized that we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. And Im still feeling that today. Thats a great feeling. You wake up the next morning, and actually I was just talking to the assistant GM over in Vancouver this morning, and they still havent quite gotten over that feeling too. So its a tremendous feeling and its a feeling of anticipation and excitement.

From the Bruins' public-relations department:

Tickets for Games 3, 4 and 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston will go on sale Tuesday, May 31 at 11:00 a.m. Tickets will be available for purchase on www.bostonbruins.com, at the TD Garden Box Office, at all Ticketmaster outlets, and via phone by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000.

The purchase price for single game tickets for a Boston Bruins playoff game at the TD Garden in a given round of the playoffs that is NOT played because the round has been concluded will be refunded in full, including any associated fees. Any refunds will be issued to the same method of payment as the original purchase.

Purchases made through TicketMaster via internet or by phone of any such ticket will be refunded within two business days of the end of the playoff round.

Purchases at the TD Garden Box Office or a Ticketmaster outlet for unplayed games must be returned in person at point of purchase for refund which will be given via the same method of payment.

Tickets purchased for a given round of the playoffs are not usable for subsequent rounds or any other game, and do not guarantee access to tickets for subsequent rounds or any other game.

Due to the Boston Bruins advancing to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final the following Glee Live! In Concert! dates have been switched to accommodate their home game schedule. TD Garden in Boston, originally scheduled for Monday, June 6th at 7:30pm is now scheduled for Tuesday, June 7th at 7:30pm; Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, originally scheduled for Tuesday, June 7th at 7:30pm is now scheduled for Monday, June 6th at 7:30pm. Fans should note their current tickets will be valid at the same venue for the alternate date. At the chance fans cannot attend the concert on this new date, a refund of the ticket purchase is possible via the point of purchase. To secure a refund, please contact the outlet where you purchased your tickets. Please note requests for a refund must be received by June 6, 2011.

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

Morning Skate: Devils get a good one in No. 1 pick Hischier

Morning Skate: Devils get a good one in No. 1 pick Hischier

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while locking the name Urho Vaakenainen into my Microsoft World spellcheck.

 *The New Jersey Devils got a No. 1 overall pick that isn’t going to be a generational player, but he’s going to be one heck of a player.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has fired Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett indicating that he needed a change after a long run in the desert.

*The Edmonton Oilers cleared cap space by dealing Jordan Eberle and immediately filled it up with a four-year commitment to Kris Russell. Peter Chiarelli must make sure he doesn’t paint himself into a salary cap corner like he did in Boston with signings like this one. Word is that Connor McDavid is going to command a massive contract, and that could make contracts like the Russell one tough to manage in Edmonton.

*Old friend Claude Julien is only a spectator at the NHL Draft, but he’s already juggling the Habs roster in his mind as it goes through changes. Both Julien and Shawn Thornton came over to shoot the breeze with the Boston media on Friday night as the first round approached, and showed once again why both men are on the All-Class team.

*The Winnipeg Jets took a guy that I thought made a lot of sense for the Bruins, big Finnish power forward Kristian Vesalainen. He was available for the Bruins at the 18th pick when they opted to go defense instead.

*The Washington Capitals decided not to let winger TJ Oshie get to free agency, and locked him up with an eight-year contract.

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is in the middle of the storm right now as he blows up his team and begins to build it the way he wants to.

For something completely different: Everything you always wanted to know about Sammy Hagar but were afraid to ask.


 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.