By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Tomas Kaberle looked like he might have turned the corner during the Bruins' four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The power play managed to produce a couple of goals in the last two games of the series, Kaberle was settling into a role during five-on-five while paired with Adam McQuaid, and the glare of being the trade deadline prize was starting to dull just a little bit.
But all that positive momentum came to a screeching halt in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals ahainst Tampa Bay.
The former Maple Leafs defenseman suffered a horrid turnover right in front of the Boston net that led to the Lightning's third goal in the first period of a 5-2 loss. Also during the game, he fired several shots from the point on the power play that were conservatively estimated at 20 feet off the mark.
Kaberle is trying to turn the page, but thats easier said than done.
Those things you have to put behind you; put the past behind you, said Kaberle. Ive felt good. I thought Ive had good legs. When you make a mistake, you have to put it behind you, thats all you have to do. If you keep thinking about it its not going to make you any better.
Kaberle blamed the bend of his stick after the game for the Scott Norwood-like misses at the net, but it only augmented the heat on a Bs power play that went 0-for-4 in the Game 1 loss to Tampa Bay and is now a woeful 2-for-41 in the playoffs through 12 games.
Thats a 4.9 success rate or a 95.1 percent failure rate for the Bs man advantage, depending on how one aims to look at it. And Kaberle, who came over from Toronto billed a power-play wizard but who's managed only three assists in the 12 postseason games so far, is catching more his fair share of the blame.
I think there is no doubt people have looked at him as a savior because our power play had been struggling, said coach Claude Julien. He is just a piece of the puzzle. Its unfortunate, but the other guys on the power play have the responsibility to do their job as well. Kaberle is one of those guys thats probably feeling the pressure because people seem to think he should be carrying the power play.
Hes an important part of it and I think if he finds his game he is going to be an important part of it. Hes not the reason our power play isnt going at the rate wed like it to go. Weve had to take some pressure off him and just let him play his game. I think if he plays his game he is going to help us a lot.
Kaberle is sitting on the bottom defensemen pairing with McQuaid, and has the look of a man who's wildly struggling to find his game.
Julien senses his power-play quarterback is pressing as he continues attempting to make a difference.
Hes got to try and push himself to be the kind of player he can be. At the same time its up to us to help him through that, said Julien. I think hes got to have the confidence of our group. I know how well he can play when hes at his best.
Certainly Kaberle feeling our support is going to help him reach that. You have discussions with players at times, and you try and pick them up when theyre down. You try to take the pressure off when theres some on. Thats just part of a coachs job, more so nowadays than ever.
Aside from the pressure and the confidence issues eroding his ability to move the puck with free and easy movements, hes clearly not in the physical shape he was at during his peak All-Star years with the Maple Leafs. Kaberle simply couldnt handle 20-plus minutes of action each night once he got to Boston, and thats much less than the Bs thought they were getting.
Theres also a sense of panic in Kaberles game when things get tight or the action gets a little too hectic in his own end, and his first-period turnover Saturday night was the perfect example of committing a really poor error at the worst possible time.
Sure, Dennis Seidenberg had a part in the fumbled handoff between the two defensemen. But Kaberle needs to be stronger in playoff games, or he wont be participating in too more of them.
Julien didnt particularly care for the talk that the Bruins needed to adjust their approach to the Tampa Bay Lightning, feeling his team simply needs to play better. Either way, the Bs didnt handle Tampas pressure very well when they did decide to attack with something besides the 1-3-1 trap. That needs to change if the Bruins want to even the series before heading to Tampa Bay.
I think right now it's so important we really focus on our game. For some reason everybody seems to think that we have to adjust to them, said Julien. We don't believe that. We have our game. We have our team. We've gotten this far. We believe in what we do.
We've got to keep our focus on what we have to do here. That's basically it. So whatever they want to do . . . those are their decisions. From our end of it, we've just got to stay sharp and put the right players on the ice.
The Bs forward lines were switched up a little bit on Monday morning at TD Garden, with Rich Peverley centering Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand while Chris Kelly centeredTyler Seguin and Michael Ryder. Julien said he was simply getting Peverley acquainted with new players, but Peverley could very well get the nod on the second line given the disappointing offensive performances from both Recchi and Marchand in Game 1.
Were just moving guys around a little bit. I think it's important that if we're going to do that that they get used to playing with each other, said Julien. Kelly has an opportunity to play with that line and has gotten used to them a little bit. Now I have some options and just giving some thoughts to maybe different combinations if we need be. Tomorrow we'll decide which one we want to go with.
The ever-quotable Tampa coach Guy Boucher had some fun with the Tyler Seguin goal that left Mike Lundin flat on the ice while getting turned around by Seguins speed. Boucher said the former University of Maine defenseman has been one of the Lightnings best skaters among that blueline corps this season. He didnt look like much more than a fringe defenseman when he was getting turned around by the 19-year-old Bs rookie.
When you look at the package, Lundin becomes a guy that's kind of a mistake-free player, said Boucher. It was weird, the other day he fell on that goal and it was really uncharacteristic of him. And basically that's good, because that's his mistake of the month. So we'll take it at that.
There arent many instances where visiting teams will plaster signage on the walls of the visiting dressing room at TD Garden, but it looked like Boucher was again at work with a sign hanging in the Tampa Bay dressing room Monday morning. The sign read in three segments as follows: Our PuckLightning TransitionPack Mentality. Boucher continues to impress as some kind of hockey combination between a Bond Villain and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.