Kaberle has 'mixed feelings' on Leafs' return

Kaberle has 'mixed feelings' on Leafs' return

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comTORONTO The stage is set for Tomas Kaberle to have a memorable, explosive performance in his first game back at the Air Canada Centre as a visiting NHL player.The 33-year-oldBruins defenseman has three assists and is a plus-5 in 12 games since getting dealt to Boston for Joe Colborne, a first round pick and a conditional draft pick last month, and has soaked up nearly 22 minutes of ice time per night as a stalwart member of the blueline corps.But the sputtering power play is mired in a 2-for-32 stretch since Kaberles arrival, and thus far the All-Star level defenseman hasnt been the cure to all of Bostons special teams ills. Since it was theexpress purpose that Kaberle was brought into Boston to begin with,the struggle to score on the man advantage hasbeen a bit eyebrow-raising.It certainly isnt the puck-moving defensemans solefault, but tonights game against his old Leafsteam would be the right kind ofsetting for both player and power play unit to explode on the scene.Kaberle and David Krejci both know that its time for them to shoot the puck a little bit more and perhaps do a little of the unexpected to set things in motion, and then ride the momentum once its been kick-started. Both players are known for their deft passing abilities, and penalty kill units are playing way off both skaters right now.At this point the kick start is whats required for a little 5-on-4 effectiveness, and a little confidence in Boston's special teams.We scored 5-on-3 a couple of games ago, but obviously 5-on-4 its been a while, said Krejci. We got a post last game, but each guy myself included needs to do a slightly better job.I need to shoot the puck a little more, Kaberle same thing where he needs to shoot a little more, Chara needs to try to shoot it with the purpose of scoring goals, said Krejci. Lucic needs to be around the net and pick up the rebounds right around the goal line. Its just a little bit that each guy is missing, but I think the power play is going to be good once we get it going. We have the guys. Were going to be good.The Bruins will need a functioning power play for a long playoff run and they require a convincing victory after losing five of their last six games, and doing it in front of the Hockey Night in Canada audience would certainly not lack for dramatic effect. Kaberle said he has mixed feelings about returning to the Leafs organization where he was drafted and developed, and he can understand the kinds of hopeless feeling in the other room now that Torontos flickering playoff hopes are nigh impossible.Its mixed feelings, said Kaberle. Being here for so long and being in that position that the Leafs are in right now is difficult. Obviously everybody has done it before and been traded, so hopefully its going to be a fit in Boston.Tonight Ill do my best for Boston and hopefully well get the two points, said Kaberle. Were just focusing on the game, and not looking at the long run of what we do or what Toronto will do. We just want to win a hockey game and play smart. We have 12 games left and we want to play good hockey going into the playoffs.Claude Julien understood that returning to Toronto would be a big deal for a lifelong Leafs player like Kaberle, and also revealed that the Bs are beginning to see some of the defensemens personality behind the scenes.I think hes excited to be back here. I havent heard him say anything bad about the organization. He was treated well by Toronto, has a lot of respect for the organization and I think hes excited, said Julien. We feel our transition game has improved with Kaberle and we feel like hes made the players around him better. The one thing about Tomas is that he spent close to a dozen years in Toronto and its his first time with another organization. Hes trying to fit in. He wants to fit in, and were going to give him time to do that.When you see him playing you can tell that he wants to be part of the solution. I like his attitude and I like his approach. I have a feeling that hell only get better as we move on here.Andrew Ference will be game time decision for Claude Julien after taking part in the optional skate with the Bruins at Air Canada Centre, but it appears that the veteran defenseman will be back in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 26. Julien lambasted Steve Kampfer after Bostons overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, and Ference looks like his lower body injury has healed enough to play.Hes going to be a game time decision, said Julien. If hes in the lineup hes a player with some experience, and hes been very good for us this year. Hes been consistent and he had a good year until the injury set him back.Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off during the optional morning skate, and should be getting the starting nod after Tuukka Rask made back-to-back starts against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators.Tyler Seguin didnt have much of a reaction to the 2500 fine given to Patric Hornqvist on Friday after catching an elbow to the left ear lobe and simply said that he supported the league trying to get head shots out of the game.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.