Could Tomas Kaberle actually return to the Boston Bruins next season?

On paper, Tomas Kaberle’s overall 2011 playoff numbers don’t look too awful:

Games Played: 25; zero goals and 11 assists for 11 points; +8 with 4 penalty minutes.

Yet those statistics don’t really capture how disappointing Kaberle often was for the Boston Bruins. He was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs – and rumored to be the target of offers for what seemed like ages – for a simple reason: he was supposed to improve a flat Bruins’ power play. Instead he only managed to produce three power-play assists in 24 regular season games and five power-play assists in 25 playoff games with Boston. (He hasn’t scored a power-play goal for the Bruins yet.) While Pension Plan Puppets points out that Kaberle might not be the power play stud people expected, those are still numbers that disappointed many who hoped that the Czech-born blueliner could make the impotent Bruins man advantage more effective.

That unit didn’t do much until the Stanley Cup finals (finishing with 10 power-play goals in the playoffs overall), but Kaberle’s struggles weren’t isolated to scoring issues. He also was forced into plenty of troubling turnovers, perhaps partially because he simply wasn’t very familiar with his teammates.

Our instinct was to say that he’s a goner in Boston, but there might be a sentiment brewing within the organization to bring him back. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had some very positive things to say about Kaberle in the Boston Herald.

“You know what he brings, and you saw it more against Vancouver. He brings the ability to both slow down the play and speed it up with his passing and skating,” said Chiarelli. “And he freezes guys. He freezes guys for the opposing forecheck, he freezes them in the neutral zone. He makes great passes, he skates into the trap. I think he was our top defensive scorer. He was a real important component here and I know he was criticized for a time.

“But you know I’ll continue to defend him because he’s a good person and he brought a lot to the back end.”

(snip)

Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, said yesterday that he has only had a chance to extend a perfunctory hello and congratulations to Chiarelli and that the two will have a more meaningful conversation soon, most likely prior to next week’s draft in Minnesota.

Curran said Kaberle was initially stung by the level of “venom” in the criticism he received early in the playoffs but he got past that, and Curran pointed to the defenseman’s improved play. He felt it was a matter of Kaberle adjusting to the system and the coaching staff adjusting to the player’s talents.

Being part of the Stanley Cup-winning formula (even in a reduced role, often playing on the team’s third defensive pairing) won’t hurt Kaberle’s resume even if his perceived weak output would. Ultimately, it will probably come down to price. If he’s willing to take a substantial pay cut from his previous $4.25 million salary cap hit, the Bruins might give him the benefit of the doubt that a training camp to familiarize himself with Claude Julien’s system might make him more of an impact player.

Besides, the market for unrestricted free agent defenseman is notably weak, so they might be wise to give it a try for one more year anyway.

(For another take on the Bruins’ future roster, check out what Joe Haggerty had to say.)

The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

Highlights of the Night:

We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.

Factoids

The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

Some key bits from tonight

Panthers, Stars brawl.

Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

Goalie injuries also cause for concern.

Scores

Bruins 3, Devils 2
Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Blues 3, Senators 0
Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Stars 6, Panthers 1
Sabres 5, Oilers 0
Canucks 6, Kings 2
Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
Ducks 6, Rangers 3
Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

  • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
  • “Non-traditional franchises.”
  • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?

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Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.