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

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.

Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for second time

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Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for second time

Patrice Bergeron will have some Bruins company at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas at the end of the month of June.

Loui Eriksson was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy on Saturday afternoon along with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Florida Panthers pivot Aleksander Barkov. It’s the second time in his career that Eriksson will be named a finalist for the award given annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The Swedish winger finished his best season in a Bruins uniform with 30 goals (third on team) and 33 assists for the second most points (63) on the team along with 12 total penalty minutes through 82 games played. Eriksson was excited to once again be a finalist for the award, and to be lumped in with a couple of the NHL’s best players in Kopitar and Barkov.

“It is a great honor to be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy, an award that has been won by some of the best players of all time,” said Eriksson, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after three seasons in Boston. “There are many deserving candidates so to be named one of the finalists with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov is very exciting for me. Thank you to my teammates and the coaching staff and I appreciate all those who voted.”

The last Bruin to win the Lady Byng Trophy was Rick Middleton back in 1981-82, and Eriksson is the first B’s finalist for Lady Byng in more than 10 years.

Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

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Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

The Boston Bruins basically had a three percent of moving up into the top three of the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday night, but they didn’t strike it draft rich when it was all said and done up in Toronto.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in attendance representing the Original Six franchise, the Black and Gold were the first team logo selected in the draft lottery meaning they will own the 14th overall pick in the first round for the second straight summer.

Instead the Toronto Maple Leafs will select first overall after putting together the worst record in the NHL last season, and the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets won the lottery to move up into the second and third slots in the draft.

This marks the sixth time in franchise history that the club has owned the 14th overall selection in the NHL Draft. The Bruins drafted Jake DeBrusk 14th overall last summer in Florida at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Stephane Quintal 14th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Normand Leveille 14th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Douglas Halward 14th overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft and Terry O’Reilly 14th overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft.

Based on finishing with the highest point total of all non-playoff teams for the second straight season, the Bruins owned a 1.0% chance of winning the 2016 Draft Lottery overall and a 3.4% chance of securing a top-three pick.

The 2016 NHL Draft will take place on June 24-25 at the First Niagara Center home of the Sabres in Buffalo just a couple of months from now, and the Bruins also own the first round pick of the San Jose Sharks that will end up somewhere in the 20’s based on the fact they’re still currently alive in the playoffs.