Thomas Kaberle

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.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.