Tomas Kaberle

Bruins need more from Tomas Kaberle, Milan Lucic and power play in second round

In many ways, the 2011 semifinals match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers is the shaggy dog series of the second round. There should be no doubt that both teams boast electrifying talent and formidable players, but they also come into Game 1 in Philly with some serious questions.

If you ask me, though, the Bruins probably have the most room for improvement. A lot of people will linger on their collapse after building a 3-0 lead against the Flyers in 2010, but the biggest red flags come from Boston’s slim first round victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

Beyond nebulous, intangible ideas like “improving their killer instinct” and “regaining their swagger,” the Bruins need improvements in concrete terms as well. Let’s take a look at who (and what) needs the most improvement.

Tomas Kaberle and the power play

It’s not fair to blame all of the Bruins’ power play woes on one player, especially a defenseman who came to the team around the trade deadline. Still, there’s no nice way to put it: Kaberle has been a bust in Boston.

The bottom line is that the team acquired Kaberle with the hope that he would improve their stale power play, yet Joe Haggerty reports that the team has a 93 percent “failure rate” on the man advantage since that trade.

That seven-game series against the Habs raised an unflattering mirror up to that unsightly power play. The Bruins became the first NHL team to win a seven-game series after failing to score a single PP goal. They went 0-for-21 and actually allowed a Tomas Plekanec shorthanded goal in Game 7, meaning that the unit was “minus-1” during the series.

Again, you cannot pin all the blame on Kaberle, but he’s still the easy scapegoat. After all, he earned 22 power play points (all assists) in 58 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season and 25 on the PP in 2009-10. He’s obviously not making his money for lock-down defense, so he needs to justify his existence by producing offense. His descent out of favor is plainly revealed by the fact that he only received a paltry 14 minutes of ice time in Game 7.

What’s wrong with Milan Lucic?

Lucic was already well-liked in Boston going into this season. After all, you don’t draw Cam Neely comparisons out of contempt. Yet the 2010-11 campaign was far and away his best yet, as he matched his previous two seasons’ combined point totals to hit a career-high 62. Perhaps most importantly, Lucic scored a career-best 30 goals.

Many probably expected Lucic to be a force of nature against a smaller Canadiens team, yet he managed zero goals and two assists in those seven games. He also hurt his team badly in Game 6 by boarding Jaroslav Spacek. He received a game misconduct for that infraction, while the Habs received a five minute major power play.

Perhaps the postseason isn’t really the problem and something else is amiss, though. Haggerty points out that Lucic hasn’t scored a goal in his last 17 games – playoffs and regular season combined – although it stands to mention that he did accumulate nine assists in that span.

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Injuries and shaken confidence can have a big impact on a player’s performance (or in some cases, a power play unit efficiency), but a new round also brings new matchups. Perhaps Kaberle will have better luck creating chances against the Flyers’ penalty killers. Maybe Lucic will respond well to the physicality Philly brings.

Either way, if the Bruins want to see another set of matchups in the conference finals, they’ll need more from Kaberle, Lucic and their busted up power play.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday