Thomas Kaberle’s nightmare playoffs continue to give Boston fits

In case you haven’t heard, things for Tomas Kaberle in Boston aren’t going too well. Since joining the Bruins in a deadline deal with Toronto, Kaberle hasn’t been the point producing power play quarterback they hoped he would be. In 24 regular season games with the Bruins he had just one goal and eight assists. Not exactly a major impact there.

In the playoffs, life hasn’t been any easier for Kaberle as he’s gotten just three assists in all with two against Montreal and one against Philadelphia. Making matters a lot worse is how bad Boston’s power play has been in the playoffs. The Bruins are a paltry 2-41 with the man advantage throughout the playoffs and they again looked very bad with it in Game 1. Kaberle’s lack of production and overall poor play isn’t helping things.

CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty finds out from Kaberle that while the struggles continue the mental toughness of shaking off such bad play is as strong as ever.

“Those things you have to put behind you; [put] the past behind you,” said Kaberle. “I’ve felt good. I thought I’ve had good legs. When you make a mistake, you have to put it behind you, that’s all you have to do. If you keep thinking about it it’s 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…

If Kaberle hasn’t been missing the net he hasn’t been taking many shots either. One of the sources of frustration for Bruins fans is they feel that Kaberle doesn’t shoot nearly enough, especially on the power play. Through 12 playoff games, Kaberle has 16 shots on goal. We’re not saying that he should be shooting as much as say Alexander Ovechkin would but just over one shot on goal per game is poor.

Claude Julien tells Haggerty though that Kaberle just needs to improve while not stressing so much about the role people believe he’s meant to fulfill.

“I think there is no doubt people have looked at him as a savior because our power play had been struggling,” said Julien. “He is just a piece of the puzzle. It’s unfortunate but the other guys on the power play have the responsibility to do their job as well. He is one of those guys that’s probably feeling the pressure because people seem to think he should be carrying the power play.

“He’s an important part of it and I think if he finds his game he is going to be an important part of it. He’s not the reason our power play isn’t going at the rate we’d like it to go. We’ve 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.”

So far, Kaberle hasn’t been able to do that and to make matters worse, he’s been demoted to the team’s third defensive pairing. While the Bruins worked on different power play setups today including using Tyler Seguin with the forward units. Either way it’s up to Kaberle to get his business figured out because if he can’t, the Bruins aren’t going to go much further than this round of the playoffs. While that’s ultimately an improvement on the past, they’ve got a huge opportunity to make the Stanley Cup finals and perhaps win the franchise’s first Cup since 1972.

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?

Report: Coyotes to talk to Todd Nelson about coaching vacancy

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The Arizona Coyotes had a somewhat unexpected shakeup this past week when the team and long-time head coach Dave Tippett mutually agreed to part ways after nine seasons together.

The search for a replacement began immediately and according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal the Coyotes will be speaking to former Oilers coach Todd Nelson about the vacancy.

Nelson spent 51 games behind the Oilers bench during the 2014-15 season replacing Dallas Eakins. Nelson was replaced at the conclusion of that season by former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. While his NHL head coaching experience is limited to that brief time in Edmonton, he has an extensive track record in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s top farm team) and currently the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings’ top farm team).

He has spent the past two seasons in Grand Rapids — replacing Jeff Blashill after he was promoted to the Detroit job — and has had a ton of success, leading the team to the Calder Cup this past season.

Predators won’t trade defense for forward help

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After losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this past week the Nashville Predators have a pretty glaring hole in their top-six that is going to need to be addressed. Along with that, captain Mike Fisher is an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is also considering retirement.

Because of those two developments general manager David Poile has made adding a top-six forward a priority for this summer, and he certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.

One thing he is not going to do, however, is trade one of his defensemen to find that help up front.

“We’ve traded enough defensemen in my recent history,” Poile said on Saturday, via the Tennessean. “I think everybody would be pretty much on the same page that our defense drives our team and our corps is as good as any in the league. We will not be touching our defense in the near future here.”

Over the past two years Poile has traded Shea Weber and Seth Jones off of his blue line but has still managed to assemble the NHL’s best defense. The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is so good that Poile made sure to protect all four of them in the expansion draft and leave Neal — a consistent 25-to 30-goal scorer signed for one more year on a pretty good contract — exposed for Vegas to take.

Without dealing one of their top-four defensemen it might be difficult to find an impact winger via the trade route, which might force them to turn to the free agent market.

But even that is going to be difficult because it is such a limited market. Now that T.J. Oshie has re-signed with the Washington Capitals Alexander Radulov would probably be the top winger available, but given his history with Nashville there is virtually no chance of that reunion happening. Justin Williams would be an intriguing veteran option, while Joe Thornton could help fill the void at center if Fisher does not return.

Still, not trading from the defense is the absolute right path for Poile and the Predators to take. Not only is that group the backbone of the Predators’ organization and one of the driving forces behind its success, it is also an extremely young group that is all signed long-term on cap friendly deals.

Even with the loss of Neal Nashville still has a deep group of forwards, while youngsters Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala could get an increased role and an opportunity to shine.